The Lane Cove Council area, North Ryde and other lower north shore suburbs have been impacted by a major Sydney Water outage that left some locals unable to shower or flush their toilets for up to four days.
Yesterday (13 September 2022), Sydney Water crews finally isolated and repaired the water main break. The Sydney Water crews have been working around the clock, and once they realised they could not quickly fix the burst water pipe, they had to take steps to reroute the water to other pipes to restore water to impacted locals. The main problem is that Sydney Water did not communicate this to the public.
When Did the Problem Start?
The problem first started at around 6.45 am on Saturday, 10 September 2022.
A water main burst so loudly it sounded like an explosion, and water started gushing onto Epping Road. Traffic on Epping Road was a nightmare, and some Lane Cove locals told ITC that they were stuck in traffic for over 2 hours on Saturday.
The traffic congestion only got worse on Monday morning when everyone was returning to work, and as the bus lane was flooded, Sydney buses were also impacted.
Why Did It Take So Long to Fix the Problem?
Sydney Water’s Managing Director, Roch Cheroux, said the replacement of the damaged pipe was complex, and crews worked around the clock to return normal water supply as soon as possible.
“This was not an ordinary water main break. Crews have told me it’s one of the largest blow-outs they’ve ever seen and that the impact of the break was so powerful, it created a 12 metre long, seven-metre deep and 10-metre wide excavation site.”
“This was a complex and unfolding situation. The size and scale of this event and the full extent of how widespread the incident was on our customers changed rapidly over the course of the weekend,” Mr Cheroux said.
“At 10 pm last night (13 September 2022), Sydney Water crews isolated and repaired the water main break at Epping Road, Lane Cove, stopping water flowing across the road,” Mr Cheroux said.
“Due to the complexity and location of the break, crews will be working throughout the day to restore the system to normal operation.
The video below shows the extent of the problem.
Why Were Residents So Upset About the Water Outage?
Locals were distressed as they were given no information about the possible time frame for the restoration of their water. To make matters worse, when they visited the Sydney Water – Water Outage page and put in their address, the results page showed water was connected at their home, and there were no known issues.
This information contradicted the general statement on the Sydney Water Outage webpage, which initially stated:
“LANE COVE, NORTH RYDE,
Our crews are responding to a burst water main that is affecting water supply and water pressure to customers in the area. We will restore the supply as quickly as we can.”
Sydney Water was advising customers that there was a technical glitch with their website. Customers were given the impression that the problem was related to the number of people visiting the webpage.
This is not correct. The Sydney Water Outage page has had technical issues for a while.
Before this latest incident, when a resident contacted ITC to say they had no water, we would ask them to visit the Sydney Water Outage page, put in their address, and advise the results of their search. Invariably, the results showed that water was connected to their address; however, the resident has no water.
ITC first noticed this problem in February 2022 and tried to alert Sydney Water that there was a problem.
ITC sent a tweet to Sydney Water again, asking them to have someone on their media team contact ITC so we could explain the issues with their website.
The Sydney Water Media team did not contact ITC to discuss the above.
The irony is that in 2020 before Sydney Water launched its new website and water outage page, more detailed information was provided to customers/end users.
What Happens Next?
Anthony Roberts and Member for Willoughby Tim James have jointly called for an independent inquiry into Sydney Water’s handling of the water main burst. They also asked Sydney Water to implement a compensation scheme for impacted residents and businesses.
Anthony Roberts has been so unimpressed he sent the following note to the MD of Sydney Water.
Anthony Roberts has constantly been speaking with the MD of Sydney Water and asking him to provide more information, assist customers, door knocks, provide water tankers, and put together a one-off compensation package.
His office has been working around the clock on this issue and trying to help all the people who were contacting their office. See the post below on Lane Cove Chat by ITC.
Lane Cove Mayor Andrew Zbik has also been working around the clock to make sure Lane Cove Council could assist locals particularly the elderly and the vulnerable. He has been at Lane Cove Council with their team working out ways to assist residents and ensuring that Sydney Community Services was involved. Lane Cove Council staff also door knocked on residents to see if they could help.
Local businesses have also been putting their hand up to help.
Ace of Fades was offering free hair washes.
Bluefit was offering free showers.
Soulful Fitness was offering free showers and also free yoga classes for the next week to impacted customers.
Has Any Compensation Been Offered?
Sydney Water today (14 September) issued a media release outlining a compensation package. The package is below.
This media release raises the following issues:
Do I have to lodge a form to claim the $200 rebate?
No, it will automatically be added to your bill – however, if you have incurred other expenses like staying in a hotel, buying water etc you can make the claim here.
I am not a Sydney Water customer, but I am an impacted local resident – will I receive the $200 credit?
Sydney Water is compensating their customer (who is usually the owner of the property).
If you are renting a property, the Sydney Water costs are usually part of a fixed outgoings fee or included in your rent. The rebate will be paid to a landlord who may or may not pass on the rebate. In fact, some landlords may not even be aware that their tenant has been impacted and will not even be aware they are getting a rebate (others will). This will be particularly so for the “mum and dad investors”.
Does this rebate apply to residential and business customers?
ITC has asked Sydney Water to clarify this.
If it does apply to business customers, will the landlord pass on the rebate?
If you’ve signed a retail lease or commercial lease, in most cases Sydney Water costs are part of your outgoings the business owner pays to the landlord. The landlord is the Sydney Water Customer.
Will a Business be Able to Claim for Loss of Revenue?
As noted above a business owner is not necessarily the customer and therefore they may not be able to make a claim for loss of revenue.
In any event, the press release only refers to customers and not end users and also the link to the form to make a claim is confusing – it is an incident form that is usually used when someone has suffered loss or injury due to Sydney Water working on their premises.
Below are the instructions for anyone making a claim and on the face of it does not look like it will cover a loss of revenue
“We try hard to prevent negative impacts on the community’s safety and wellbeing while we do our work. However, we realise unfortunate events do happen. If you’ve been injured or your property has been lost or damaged because of work we’ve done, we will investigate. Please complete anto lodge a claim for the damage we’ve caused. Be sure to include photos and any other relevant documentation.”
Some business owners may have a business interruption insurance policy – however, this means submitting an insurance claim and dealing with an insurance company.
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