Paddy Burke at his home in Bryanstown, Ballinea last week. PHOTO: JOHN MCCAULEY

Ballinea household at end of its tether over water issues

A family living between Mullingar and Loughanavalley is at the end of its tether after eight years of enduring extraordinary obstacles to securing a stable water supply.

Paddy Burke, from Bryanstown, Ballinea, Mullingar, said that he and his family have been “passed from Billy to Jack” between various agencies, and have had no joy in ending daily water outages, which usually last seven or eight hours, including peak times.

Paddy is baffled as to what is causing the outages. The local infrastructure has been tested for leaks, he says, and none have been found. Other households near the Burkes in Bryanstown do not have problems with their water supply to such an extent, and what makes the matter really puzzling is that the outages follow a pattern.

“Between around 2.30pm and 10pm each day, usually, the water is gone,” Paddy explained. “You can’t even flush the toilets during that time. We’ve had eight years of this.”

And the problem with Paddy’s mains water connection appears to be getting worse.

“For most of the time it was a problem during the summer months, and eased a bit during the winter. This is the first year that I’ve ever had hassle during the winter as well,” Paddy explained.

Paddy is a tenant of Westmeath County Council, and the council’s water services section were his first port of call when problems first arose back in 2015.

“They put me on to Irish Water, and I had a couple of calls with them. After I waited a while one day they put me on to a customer services person, who was abroad. I was given a reference number.

“I’ve been going back and forth since and have had no joy. I was on Midlands 103 two or three years ago talking about the problem. Peter Burke tried for me, and got onto Irish Water three or four times, and couldn’t get any answers.”

Paddy and his wife Sabrina live at Bryanstown with four of their eight children. The four girls are up at 6am in the morning to get showered before school, because there is no supply in the evenings. Paddy buys bottled water in bulk every week so that there will be a supply for drinking, cooking, washing teeth and other essentials.

“I can’t keep a count on how much I’m spending on bottled water,” Paddy continued. “We must go through at least two or three five-litre bottles in a day.”

The house was one of the first to get a water meter when the new technology was first rolled out by Irish Water, but appears to be one of the only ones in the district that is experiencing problems of this magnitude.

“I don’t know what the cause of it is, but every day it just goes off like clockwork. Like the flip of a switch,” he concluded.

The Westmeath Examiner contacted Uisce Éireann last Friday about the Burke family’s case. On Tuesday afternoon, a spokeperson for the utility replied and said that Uisce Éireann will liaise directly with Paddy in the near future.