Irish Water have ruled out discounts or refunds for hundreds of business customers affected by a major outage in Cork which left 40,000 people without water.
The company said the issue of discounts or refunds does not arise in this case because a boil water notice was not imposed and supply was restored to all customers within 12 hours.
The utility was responding to calls from the Cork Business Association (CBA) following the major interruption in supply across the city on Wednesday, which forced many businesses to close for several hours.
A mains supply pipe near the Lee Road waterworks site burst unexpectedly on Wednesday morning, causing local flooding on the Lee Road and a significant and sudden disruption to water supply for estimated 40,000 people across vast swathes of the city.
Irish Water said the burst pipe was located and identified within a relatively short period, which allowed repair crews working on behalf of Irish Water and Cork City Council to restore water supply to many of the affected areas, including the city centre business district, by early afternoon and to fully restore a normal supply to all areas once repairs were completed by 9pm.
The disruption forced dozens of businesses, including pubs, restaurants, coffee shops, and hairdressers, to close for several hours.
Many reported damage to expensive mains-plumbed coffee machines and kitchen equipment as water pressure dropped and dirty water filtered through.
They also expressed concern about having to run taps for some time on Wednesday night, as advised by Irish Water, to ensure the restored supply was usable.
The CBA led calls for Irish Water to arrange discounts for affected businesses who were left counting the cost of the disruption.
“We know these things happen but it is only reasonable for Irish Water to consider the impact this outage has had on business,” CBA chief executive Lawrence Owens said. “They are paying for a service and reliability. There has to be some balance if they can’t run their business, through no fault of their own. The service provider needs to take account of that.”
Irish Water told the Irish Examiner yesterday that, in relation to water charges applied to its customers, including refunds, it is regulated by the Commission for Energy Regulation.
A spokesman said: “There has been no change to the non-domestic tariff arrangements since Irish Water took over responsibility for the administration of business water accounts from the local authority.
“Under this framework, discounts or refunds are provided to customers only where water is unfit for human consumption — where a boil water notice is imposed by the HSE — for a period of more than 24 hours.
“Where a meter is in place, as is the case in the vast majority of businesses, no metered charge applies where no water is supplied.
“No drinking water restriction was imposed in this case and the water supply was returned to all customers within 12 hours and, in many cases, in a much shorter period time. The issue of a refund does not therefore apply in this case.”
The CBA estimates some traders lost up to 30% in business during the day, and the issue also caused reputational damage to the city, as tourists staying in city hotels were also affected.
They have called for a back-up water supply plan to be devised to ensure such wide-scale disruption does not happen again.
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