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WATER EARTH SHOCK; Warning raises electrocution fears.

Byline: CIARAN McKEOWN

HOUSEHOLDERS have been left frightened by a letter from NI Water warning that their homes may no longer be electrically earthed.

The scare began when the troubled water company wrote to residents in the Ormeau Road/ Ravenhill Road area of South Belfast this week.

The letter advised that metal water pipes will be replaced over the next month by nonconductive ones - leaving residents vulnerable to fire or electrocution.

It means that older properties whose electrical earthing depended on connection to the water mains would no longer be safe.

And NI Water insisted they have no "duty of care" to householders on the issue.

The letter, which bewildered older residents, also claimed that NIE had no duty of care either and advised people to contact a reputable electrical contractor to ensure their homes are properly earthed.

One angry pensioner, retired BBC producer Terry Sharkie, said: "I'm not stupid but I can't make head nor tail of this and what's it going to be like for other older people? These people say they have no duty of care - all that means is they don't care.

"Does it mean we could be burned in our beds or fried if we put on a kettle?

"Does it mean we have to shell out pounds 100 to a certified electrician to tell us that our homes are safe after all these years? Does it mean they are going to have to start ripping up gardens or pavements to check where the houses are earthed?"

South Belfast MLA Anna Lo said the letter must have been a shock for local residents and pledged to take the matter further.

She added: "There is a health and safety issue here, a matter of basic human rights.

"Privatised utilities cannot just wash their hands of it and say they have no duty of care. They are partly Government-funded and they obviously have a duty.

"They cannot expect individual householders to fork out a lot of money to check if they're affected."

NI Water spokeswoman Alison McCrystal said the issue would probably affect very few people, since earthing of household electricity via the water mains ceased in 1967.

She added: "Earthing is the sole responsibility of the owner."

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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Apr 30, 2010
Words:379
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