South East Water apologised to Wealden customers during a meeting of the district council's Overview and Scrutiny Committee yesterday (September 11) as members of the water company were quizzed over recent performance.
Much of the discussion focussed on the mass outages, which hit thousands of Wealden residents in both December and June, leaving some without running water for a entire week. The failure affected homes, businesses, care home and farms.
As he blamed the winter weather, the water firm's chief executive, David Hinton, told the meeting that he needed to apologise “about a service that over the last few years, from our view certainly, has been substandard."
Conservative councillor Michael Lunn, who represents one of the areas worst affected by the latest emergency, was the most vociferous speaker at the meeting.
He highlighted the plight of those he represents: “On the ground it was chaos. There were thousands of residents, farmers, who were without water for over seven days and yet you still refused the support of this council, who could have manned water stations.
“The fire brigade could have got water out to farmers and you still didn’t declare an emergency. Can you explain that to our residents please?”
The water executives maintained they had treated the outage as an emergency, but, unlike the December outage, could not declare a ‘major incident’ as the number of households affected did not go beyond the required threshold. The only difference in their response, they said, would have been a request for help from central government.
Cllr Lunn also impressed on South East Water how parish councils had felt badly let down and neglected, their supreme local knowledge not utilized whereas it could have helped to ease the plight of those affected.