NI Water say sorry after man falls six feet into sewer

TUV Leader Jim Allister MLA. Picture by Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye �
TUV Leader Jim Allister MLA. Picture by Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye �

NI Water has apologised after a man walking on the promenade in Portstewart stepped on a manhole cover and fell six feet into a sewer.

The incident, which occurred in August, was witnessed by TUV leader, Jim Allister who was in the resort with his family and young grandchildren.

He reported the incident to Sara Venning, the CEO of NI Water, expressing his grave concern at the condition of ‘vintage’ manhole covers and their potential danger to the public.

In his letter to Ms Venning, he said: “My family were walking along the Promenade nearly opposite the York Hotel when a pedestrian walking beside us stepped on a sewer double manhole cover which instantly collapsed, causing him to fall heavily into the six feet deep sewer.

“After helping him out, I examined the scene and was amazed to discover the advanced stage of metal corrosion and lack of even a lip on one side for the cover to rest on. It is obvious to me that this cover has not been adequately maintained, or, I suspect adequately inspected for years, else its dangerous condition would not have gone undetected. “

Appealing to NI Water to examine other manhole covers in the area, Mr Allister added: “I must stress the appalling condition of the structure and the tragedy which could have awaited a small child if such had fallen in.

“I have since visited the unfortunate victim of this incident and while he had multiple scrapes and bruises, I am glad that he is recovering.

In her reply, Ms Venning offered sincere apologies to the victim for the trauma he experienced and said the manhole cover was sited on a pathway not maintained by Transport NI.

She explained: “Following report of the collapse NIW contractors promptly responded to the call, made the area safe and subsequently replaced the defective manhole.

“In addition, following detailed inspection, and as a precautionary measure, all manholes of a similar vintage along the Promenade have been replaced.”

Mr Allister added: “While I greatly welcome that four manhole covers on this Promenade have now been replaced and rendered safe, I am appalled that for probably decades these manholes were not inspected, as is evident from Ms Venning’s reply, and was evident to me when I saw the state of corrosion of the metal frames.

“NIW’s reliance on Translink inspectors was clearly flawed in that they only examine the roads and footpaths, whereas this promenade was just ignored.

“If a small child had fallen in to this fast flowing sewer, instead of an adult, then the outcome could have been horrendous.“