Published Wednesday, 30 May 2012
An NIW worker repairs a fire hydrant. (© NIW)
According to Northern Ireland Water, around 50 hydrants have been opened and around three quarters of a million litres of water have gone down the drain.
They said that is the equivalent of 2,000 homes' supply every day, adding that the problem is also hitting local hospitals and vulnerable customers hard.
NIW's Waterline number has received nearly 200 calls during the past few days, as temperatures across Northern Ireland hit scorching highs of 25C.
Ronnie Glendinning said the cost of the vandalism will run into thousands of pounds if it continues throughout the summer.
"Opening fire hydrants is not only extremely dangerous for the people living in the area if a fire was to break out, but also a huge inconvenience to those whose water supply is affected as a result," she explained.
"Why should the whole community suffer, particularly our most vulnerable customers, because of the selfish actions of a few?
"Unfortunately, this activity is a particular problem in the Belfast area when there is good weather. On behalf of NI Water, I would appeal to everyone to consider who they are putting at risk; it could even be their own family and friends."
NI Water added that its staff are working around the clock to close hydrants, but in some cases have been met with threats and abuse.
East Belfast MLA Robin Newton slammed those responsible.
"I can well understand the frustration of Northern Ireland Water (NIW) staff, as they are called to deal with this senseless abuse of the fire hydrants," the DUP representative said.
"In understanding the irritation of NIW staff, this problem cannot be allowed to continue. If the vandals - as suspected - are using NIW keys to turn on the water, then some form of security measure must be undertaken to prevent this happening."
Mr Newton added: "Lives are put at risk with this vandalism, PSNI time is wasted in supporting NIW staff as they do their duty, and residents suffer disrupted water supplies.
"Given the cost to the taxpayer, this is a problem to which a solution must be found."
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