Fliuch Off Irish Water Ltd responds an article by Harry McGee in the Irish Times, Dec 1, 'What is the future of water charges and metering'
In an article today Harry McGee of the Irish Times raises some interesting points such as:
‘How will we know who’s wasting water if there’s no water meter?’
Whether Harry had the time or remit, or was operating to a deadline or a bias, or thinks his readers aren’t able to read long pieces due to the Googlification effect on society we don’t know, but here’s our response:
What is a generous allowance?
If so many homes are without meters the problem of waste also raises the problem of usage. How will any committee come to an agreement on what a generous allowance is?
We have provided data that shows the figure for an allowance given by Irish Water Ltd is a nonsense. Irish Water Ltd proposed 90 litres per person per day (or less) when the EU average is more than twice that.
We also demonstrated that Irish Water Ltd used data from meters installed at empty and holiday homes as well as from homes where they never demonstrated how many people were in the home, their ages and if there were special needs.
Leak surge after meter installations
We, along with many others, noticed a surge in leaks AFTER meters were installed. We have eye witness accounts along with video and photo evidence of leaks appearing after meters were installed (mainly water pouring out of boundary boxes). Members of Fliuch witnessed contractors hurriedly filling in holes where water was oozing out. Some of these leaks went unfixed for months, some for over a year.
Not only did shoddy work cause leaks it also caused lead to leak into homes as many pipes into homes were lead and were simply cut, with no warning, and had plastic pipes attached to them. No instruction was given to homeowners to flush their system and no follow-up was ever done to test household water for lead.
What about all the boundary box lids that had to be replaced? What about the fact that the plastic lids are not fit for purpose where there are cars passing over them? What about the poor quality concrete used to fill in many boundary boxes that had to be replaced in numerous locations and has still to be replaced in numerous locations?
As for apartment blocks etc, meters were already installed on many mains pipes years ago but were not maintained and allowed to fail. Why were they not maintained? Who was responsible? Why have they not been held to account?
Two of our members live in apartments and one of them has a very bad leak (from the heating system) that the landlord is ignoring as the water seems to be traveling down to the foundation via cavity blocks so it’s not causing any visible problems.
The other lives in a block where there is a tap in the backyard that gets used regularly to wash wheelie bins plus several residents wash their cars almost weekly – so the expert commission is incorrect in their assumptions about people living in apartments not wasting water.
Mainstream Media portrayal of Anti Water Movement
The media would have people believe that the anti water charges movement is simply a ‘populist’ movement full of ignorant, angry, welfare wasters but many of us are educated, hard-working people who have actually put some thought into this.
The word/term populist (populism etc) is being used by the mainstream media in a derogatory way non-stop. It exposes a bias and arrogance that blinds journalists from feeling the pulse of the people and skews their reporting and commenting on what’s really happening in society at large. It’s why the mainstream media failed to predict that Donald Trump would win.
Money allocated to water infrastructure never spent
The main questions not being asked by the media surround the fact that money was allocated to our water infrastructure but never got spent on it – why not? Where did that money go? Why has there been no audit for so many years? Why has no one been held accountable? Why was funding decreased for several years prior to the introduction of water charges? A common tactic before privatisation.
Fundamentally, no reasonable person should be opposed to metering and charges for wasting water, yes we already pay through direct and indirect taxation for water but we don’t pay for an infinite number of litres per person per day.
Constitutional safeguards needed
We are opposed to enforced metering and charges when there are no safeguards in place to prevent the full-scale commodification and privatisation of our water.
We understand that the Constitution allows for the government to alienate* itself from our natural resources and that any amendment to Article 10 might have implications regarding oil and gas etc. This might not be a bad thing as our State has given away vast amounts of our natural resources already. In some cases the taxpayer has actually paid companies to exploit our resources. (*sell or lease)
Refunds and collecting unpaid charges:
*No Consent. No Contract. No Liability.*
If you willingly entered into a contract with Irish Water Ltd you have no real recourse unless you renounce the contract and claim you weren’t in full knowledge of the Terms and Conditions or that the contract was forced on you under threat of penalty and that you were under duress etc.
What the mainstream media aren’t asking is: Will the so-called Conservation Grant be refunded? Will the government demand repayment of that money? Some people who received that money weren’t even liable (if you accepted you were liable) to water charges so they literally got money for nothing. Will the government demand receipts to prove the money was spent on water conservation?
As for those who didn’t pay – Irish Water Ltd is a private limited company – if it wants to pursue unpaid charges it must do it like any other company – via demand notices, debt collection agencies, solicitors, and ultimately through the District Courts. Irish Water Ltd would have to establish in court that the people it’s demanding money from had knowingly, freely and willingly entered into a contract. Under Irish and EU legislation you cannot be forced into a contract against your will. Plus, this is a civil matter not a criminal one so it is not a matter the Gardaí should lawfully be involved in.
Put simply, there is no provision in law for Irish Water Ltd to take people en-masse to court and there is no provision in law for Irish Water Ltd to have the ability to take money from your bank account, wages or welfare. If Irish Water Ltd is reconfigured in some way (as a company) then all claims become void.
We call for an amendment to Article 10 of the Constitution that guarantees the provision of a generous allowance of clean, accessible water with provisions in legislation to grant exemptions (an increase in the allowance) for people with special needs. That same legislation must also take into account wastage caused by leaks and if the government is serious about conservation then it must provide serious finance to fix leaks no matter where they are. Nothing less than a Constitutional guarantee to a generous allowance (an allowance that ensures that no one will pay any extra for their usual/normal usage of water) will stop this movement.