Despite a number of homes and businesses suffering from frozen pipes in recent days, a water crisis disaster has been averted this Christmas thanks to the work of Mayo County Council staff whose preventative work throughout the year has helped keep water flowing in the pipes.
According to Cllr Blackie Gavin, who also works for Mayo County Council as a plumber, the water situation throughout the county is very serious at the moment with freezing pipes cutting off supplies. However, some good work carried out in response to the deluge of calls received from people last year suffering with water problems has paid off in general terms - and particularly in the county town of Castlebar, he said.
“It is just so cold now, it’s freezing night after night and going deeper and deeper into the ground. The freeze will go 18 inches down and any pipes laid above that will freeze solid - once that happens it’s a very difficult job to actually get the water back on.
“Fortunately the work that has been done in the last year by Mayo County Council area staff has prevented a crisis in Castlebar this winter and has paid off on water conservation. It entailed installing new water control units and putting the pipes down two foot. Having the water flow is critical to Castlebar at the moment because our biggest employers, Baxter, and of course Mayo General Hospital depend on water.”
The issue of householders leaving water running to prevent water freezing is not good practice, according to Cllr Gavin.
“I suppose people are running water in houses after getting caught in past years where pipes aren’t deep enough. That’s all down to bad workmanship by developers. Where it does happen that pipes freeze the most important thing to do is to find out where the stopcock or water control unit is located going in to the house - this is most important if there’s a water breakdown as it must be switched off - it will usually be outside on the public footpath.”
Cllr Gavin also advised anyone leaving their house vacant for a few days or weeks to ensure to turn off the stopcock.
“Houses that would be vacant around town and rural areas, any vacant houses, they must be checked, the water knocked off and the system drained because a lot of people come back and find their houses flooded. So if you’re going away make sure the water is knocked off first.
“Also a lot of the houses we have been to, the tanks in the attics have been frozen. The best advice is for people to leave the trapdoor open so heat can get up into the attic; they may also consider having an infrared bulb installed by an electrician.”
The quicker restorative work is carried out, the faster the problem is sorted and Cllr Gavin recommends that anyone discovering a water issue immediately alert the authorities.
“People who see burst pipes in fields or on the roads or who are affected by a burst water main should report it to the council immediately so that we can mobilise a team there to shut down the water. All the council area offices were inundated with calls last year and as there is a huge demand on the water supply right now there needs to be a focus on water conservation.”
Happily over the Christmas weekend coming the slightly warmer weather forecast should help resolve issues, Cllr Gavin added.
“According to weather reports there should be a thaw so we’re hoping all water supplies will be restored and repairs fixed. Any old people living on their own, it’s important neighbours would call; in some estates where water is frozen, people can connect through an outside tap with their neighbours - and neighbourliness is what it is all about at Christmas.”