Your browser is no longer supported

For the best possible experience using our website we recommend you upgrade to a newer version or another browser.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

Water firm chief urged to resign

Tens of thousands of people in Northern Ireland are still without water in their homes and the head of the company behind the crisis has been urged to resign, according to reports.

People across the region have been without running water for 11 days after pipes burst during the cold weather.

Engineers are still trying to fix leaking pipes to around 80 towns and villages, increasing worry that a major health emergency may now be on the cards.

But the head of Northern Ireland Water (NIW), Laurence McKenzie, insists the problems were caused by the rapid thaw which followed the cold spell, although he admitted “there is a lot for this organisation to learn”.

The Stormont Executive meet in Belfast on Friday to figure out what other action is necessary, while the effectiveness of management at NIW is increasingly called into question.

SDLP Assembly member John Dallat said McKenzie must quit now. “The company is now effectively being run by people who have no experience of water utilities. No-one should be in any doubt that this crisis didn’t begin with the first snowflake. NIW has been in crisis for a very long time so it should come as no surprise that there was no contingency plan and a complete breakdown in how to manage the situation,” he said.

However, deputy first minister Martin McGuinness said NIW’s performance will be looked at later and that this wasn’t the time for resignations.

McKenzie said his immediate focus was to get all customers back on supply. “We had a very rapid thaw. Temperatures changed from -16ºC to 10°C in a very short space of time. It was the rapid thaw which caused the problems.”

“I think there is a lot for this organisation to learn.”

Readers' comments (3)

  • Barry Walton

    There is something odd about Mr McKenzies' claim that a rapid thaw across a temperature range of -16degC to +10degC caused the problems. To the extent that problems are related to water turning to ice, pipes and accessories would have been broken as ice formed and long before anything was as cold as -16. Also as the whole event was a snap it is highly questionable that at proper cover depths anywhere near such a temperature was suffered. It reads a bit like the man who "lost his home in a hurricane" but the roof had gone when the wind was only up to 35 knots.

    B Walton (F)

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • RFP

    Couldnt agree with you more Barry.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • InsideOut

    Barry, Mr McKenzie is an accountant who is merely repeating what his engineers have told him (and the politicians and general public) is the cause of the problems.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions. Please note comments made online may also be published in the print edition of New Civil Engineer. Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.