BALLYGOWAN residents have expressed their concern and anger amid claims that their tap water is making them ill.
Concerns were raised at the end of last month after residents of The Forge area reported to NI Water that their water smelt and tasted funny, which prompted a series of tests and flushing of the water system.
NI Water assured people that the water was ‘safe to drink’ however some residents reported getting sick with vomiting, diarrhoea and one woman’s eyes stuck together after she was splashed in the face.
Claire Alington, a resident of The Forge, said she realised something was wrong on Thursday, July 27 when one of her neighbours asked if others noticed something off with their water. Claire had noticed the day before the water tasted funny but put it down to having a new water bottle.
After checking her water, Claire said it was smelly and tasted awful and reported the issue to NI Water. Over the weekend, Claire and her two young children were sick with vomiting and diarrhoea.
“Myself, my daughter and son were sick and I had to ring the out of hours doctor for us and get medication for cramps and pain in our tummies,” she said.
“It cleared up over the weekend until Monday night when my eyes got sprayed. NI Water had flushed the system so I turned it on to see if it had fixed it but our tap was air-locked so when I turned it on it began to bubble and spurt out at me and it splashed on my eyes and within 10 minutes my eyes started to fill with pus.
“I had to go to the Royal Hospital twice where they did swabs and PH tests and flushed out my eyes. My vision is really blurry and I’m not supposed to be driving. The doctor asked if I worked with chemicals and said it looks like a chemical eye burn.
Claire said the treatment residents have received from NI Water has been ‘awful’ and confusing.
“They are telling people that all tests are clear but that’s not true as some of the tests aren’t back yet so that’s completely misleading. It’s like something out of a third world country, dealing with them is a complete nightmare.”
Sarah Connor, another resident in The Forge area, said she and her family also became ill with vomiting and diarrhoea after drinking the water.
“We haven’t been drinking the water since this started on July 26, we’re on bottled water and I got a water filter for the fridge,” she said.
“We even stopped showering which was gross but we have to keep living so I got my daughter in the shower and told her it would have to be quick. She said she did it within two minutes, and she felt really ill after it.
“She’s autism so she doesn’t really know if she’s feeling unwell or not, and she said ‘mum I don’t feel like myself’. She was white as a ghost and her lips were grey. Thankfully she came around within 10 minutes.
“You’d never ever in a month Sundays think it’s the drinking water making you unwell.”
Sarah feels like residents are being ‘fobbed off’ by NI Water, with one staff member telling her she’s ‘making a song and a dance out of this’.
Sarah feels NI Water are saying the tests are clear but yet no-one knows why there was an issue in the first place.
Alliance representatives are calling for clarity from NI Water with MLA Nick Mathison and councillor Rachel Ashe seeking answers from the company.
“I have been contacted by several residents reporting a strange taste and smell to the water in recent days, who are understandably worried about water safety,” said Ms Ashe.
“NI Water has confirmed with me that they have conducted numerous tests on the water, but there has been a distinct lack of clear communication and direct engagement with residents who have been in touch.”
MLA Nick Mathison said that both politicians are still waiting to hear back from the department.
“Both Rachel and I escalated this to NI Water’s CEO last week, but so far we have yet to receive a reply,” said Mr Mathison.
“I am sure that NI Water will be taking this issue seriously, but it is vital they communicate clearly with concerned residents to provide the necessary information and reassurance.
“I would urge anyone living in the Ballygowan area who has noticed any changes to their drinking water to report this to NI Water,” he said.