A Broadstairs ward councillor has accused Southern Water of trying to “shirk its responsibilities” after customers hit by a prolonged water outage in December have been told they will only be paid £30 in compensation.
Properties in Broadstairs and surrounding areas were left without water following a significant burst at the Rumfields tower in the early hours of December 19. Water was not restored until around 9pm on December 20 but the £30 payment compensates for more than 12 hours without water but less than 24 hours.
Furious Cllr Mike Garner, who was among those affected, said: “For most residents who were affected in Broadstairs, including me, the outage lasted more than 24 hours and we’re angry that the company is trying to rip us off, especially as we’ve had to suffer three further outages this year.
“Confidence in Southern Water is at an all-time low following years of sewage being dumped in the sea and now months of unreliable water supply. The fact that they are now trying to shirk their responsibilities by reducing the amount of compensation residents should be receiving is disgraceful.
“I will be continuing to lobby the company to change their mind and pay residents the compensation they are due and urge as many residents as possible to contact the company and do the same.”
Compensation policy is to pay £30 if interrupted supply lasts for longer than 12 hours and then £30 for each additional 12 hours until water is restored. The December outage lasted for around 40 hours.
Rachel Ryan-Crisp, head of customer services at Southern Water, said: “We know the incident in Broadstairs caused disruption and inconvenience to customers. We were determined to ensure compensation started being paid as soon as possible without waiting for our customers to claim.
“We used the best data we had but are aware that some customers were out of water for longer than others. We are working through the more complete data we now have but any customers who believe they were entitled to more should get in touch with us.”
Southern Water representatives will be questioned by Thanet councillors about the recent spate of interruptions to water supply.
They will attend an Overview & Scrutiny meeting in March and have been asked to attend a full council meeting. The subject will also be raised at the February scrutiny meeting.
The request, put forward by Labour councillor Rob Yates, follows the water outage in December and a further three interruptions to supply this month.
The most recent outages were due to local power interruptions, which tripped the booster pumps on site and then a mains power failure occurred and generators also failed due to a faulty starter motor.
In response to enquiries from Cllr Garner and Cllr Yates, Southern Water said: “We’ve worked hard to understand what was causing the disruption and we have now identified that the root cause was a faulty power contactor for the mains feed, as well as a faulty starter motor for the backup generator. The motor will be replaced as soon as it is delivered on site and we’re also installing a new switch over panel for the existing generator.
“Earlier this week we successfully completed overnight electrical maintenance work, which included the installation of a new temporary generator and mains fail testing.
“The site is now permanently manned until the new starter motor is installed, which provides resilience if there is a power issue, as the team will be able to switch power over onto the generator and keep customers in supply.”
Southern Water says it is currently upgrading the Rumfields site and anticipates work to improve the water tower will be completed next month.
At a Thanet council Cabinet meeting last Thursday (January 26) a motion was put forward on behalf of Cllr Abi Smith requesting more involvement from Southern Water and the Environment Agency when planning applications for large developments are lodged.
The motion was not agreed despite intense debate due to some statements within it being deemed as incorrect and other requested actions cited as already being undertaken. Council leader Ash Ashbee said she has written to the Southern Water chief executive to ask him to attend a full council meeting.
To make a compensation claim complete the web form at the bottom of Southern Water’s contact us page.
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