Sinister theft of water meter covers

A hole left in the footpath following the removal of a water meter cover at College Park. Photo: Michelle Ghee. www.gphotos.ie
The sinister removal of water meter covers around the College Park - Ballinalee Road area in Longford town is causing a serious risk to public safety.

The sinister removal of water meter covers around the College Park - Ballinalee Road area in Longford town is causing a serious risk to public safety.

A spokesperson for contractors working on behalf of Irish Water explained to the Leader that covers have been removed on four separate occasions inside ten days and that workers on site also received unconfirmed reports that an elderly lady injured her hip by tripping on one of the uncovered meters.

The first incident occurred on Saturday, July 25 when six covers were removed and it was reported to Irish Water on Monday, July 27. The spokesperson revealed, “I travelled to the site in Longford from Galway and I replaced those six covers. I reported the incident to the Gardaí myself. Uncovered meters are quite dangerous as there is a hole left in the footpath.”

Then over the Bank Holiday weekend, covers were removed on three consecutive nights - Saturday, Sunday and Monday, August 1, 2 & 3.

“On Saturday night a number of covers were stolen again and it was reported to Irish Water on Sunday and we mobilised an emergency crew and they replaced the covers. On Sunday, there were more covers taken and we mobilised an emergency crew on Monday, and because of the Bank Holiday weekend and estimated 19 covers removed we didn’t have enough of covers to replace them and we placed cones over some of these holes.

“Whoever is doing this struck again last night and we are currently working on site to replace the meter covers,” pointed out the spokesperson yesterday morning (Tuesday).

Gardaí are investigating the matter which the spokesperson suggested is unique to Longford town.

“It is a unique problem with that location. We have installed over 100,000 meters in the north east region which covers Cavan, Monaghan, Longford, Louth, Meath and Westmeath and we’ve never encountered this type of incident, so the first cover that was removed or stolen on us was last Saturday night week in Longford.”

He appealed those engaged in the removal of meter covers to discontinue and urged anyone with information on these incidents to contact Longford Gardaí at 043 33 50570.

He concluded, “On Tuesday morning while replacing covers on site in Longford our crew met a blind person walking with a cane and what chance have they to avoid injury should they come across an uncovered meter.

“It is that serious a problem and we want the person or persons responsible to understand the consequences.”

He added, “Generally we’d no issues during the installation. We had issues in Louth which was quite difficult but we’d next to no protests in Longford.”

The covers are of low value costing approximately €5 each however the risk to the general public is significant.

“It is vandalism and there is a great risk to the public and the cost of replacing the covers is a lot more to ourselves because we have to mobilise personnel - the value of the material is next to nothing.”

The spokesperson pointed out that the people responsible for the incidents would need to be prepared. “You’d need to have some tools, a crowbar, screwdriver of some sort. Your key wouldn’t take up a cover as you would break it. The first time we thought it was an opportunist incident but to happen three times in-a-row suggests it is more sinister.”

He appealed those engaged in the removal of meter covers to discontinue and urged anyone with information on these incidents to contact Longford Gardaí at 043 33 50570.

He concluded, “The removal of meter covers poses a serious public safety risk and people need to be made aware of and understand the likely consequences.

“On Tuesday morning while replacing covers on site in Longford our crew met a blind person walking with a cane and what chance have they to avoid injury should they come across an uncovered meter. It is that serious a problem and we want the person or persons responsible to understand the consequences.”