Clonmel residents left in limbo over repair of sewerage problems

Patrick Neill shows the raw sewage flowing onto the public road from a drain outside his home at 79 Bianconi Drive, Clonmel.
Full-time carer Patrick Neill and his 70 year-old invalid mother Catherine from Bianconi Drive in Clonmel are battling to get a sewerage problem at their home fixed for nearly a year but have hit a brick wall because Irish Water says it’s not responsible.

Full-time carer Patrick Neill and his 70 year-old invalid mother Catherine from Bianconi Drive in Clonmel are battling to get a sewerage problem at their home fixed for nearly a year but have hit a brick wall because Irish Water says it’s not responsible.

Since last September, the Neills have been living with a stench of sewage around their home. One of their toilets is unusable and they have difficulties flushing waste from their main toilet. Raw sewage flows from a drain at the back of the house onto the public road.

Patrick said when he contacted Clonmel/Cahir Municipal District Council he was told to contact Irish Water as the authority could only carry out work if given the go ahead from the utility. When he contacted Irish Water, the company said it was only responsible for main sewers and they weren’t causing the problem in this situation. Patrick says plumbers who examined the problem have concluded that a common drain for the six houses in their block has collapsed but Irish Water say the problem is with a private side drain on his property.

Patrick said he is concerned the raw sewage flowing onto the public road presents a public health hazard.

He is also angry the responsibility for the repairs seem to be falling back on he and his mother. He is currently dependent on the Carers Allowance for his income and can’t afford the expense.

The Neills case is one of many across the county lying unresolved because Irish Water only accepts responsibility for sewage pipes under publicly owned road or paths to the outer edge of the boundary of a property.

Irish Water says under the Water Services Act (2007) homeowners are responsible for the pipes from the outer edge of the property boundary to the building. However, when waste water services were the local authorities’ responsibility, the repair and maintenance of such sewers were routinely carried out by local councils.

The situation has prompted Clonmel TD Seamus Healy to call on Environment, Community and Local Government Minister Alan Kelly to instruct Irish Water to take responsibility for these sewer repairs and maintenance.

He says he has constituents onto him every week with unresolved sewerage problems such as blockages around their homes and like the Neills, Irish Water won’t sanction repairs or maintenance because they are not deemed to be problems caused by main sewage pipes. In Clonmel alone, houses in Queen St., Baron Park, Elm Park, Oliver Plunkett Tce. and the Old Bridge area have all encountered similar problems to the Neills.

“Most of these cases are ongoing recurring problems which in the past were dealt with by the local council. Most of the sewers were laid by local councils or contractors acting on behalf of local councils. Sewerage coming into showers, bathrooms, gardens and public places cannot be allowed to continue.”

Co. Council Senior Engineer Denis Holland acknowledged the situation has caused a lot of distress for people affected by sewerage problems. He said the Council had been very strong in conveying to Irish Water the issues members of the public had raised. “We meet with Irish Water regularly and and this issue has been top of the agenda.” Minister Alan Kelly’s spokesman said the Minister had been directly in contact with Irish Water on this matter.