Regulator to probe water leaks chaos

Northern Ireland's utility regulator is to probe the handling of the crisis that saw thousands of homes left without running water.

The move was confirmed yesterday by Regional Development

Minister Conor Murphy who had promised an external review of the episode.

His department is responsible for the government-owned company Northern Ireland Water (NIW) that has been heavily criticised for its handling of the events. It said yesterday it had re-connected all the homes that had lost water during the crisis but warned customers to be aware of the dangers of burst pipes as temperatures were forecast to drop again.

Mr Murphy said the regulator will set the terms of the inquiry and will report back to the Stormont Executive by the end of February, though it is possible proposals for reform could be made at an earlier date.

Arctic weather conditions over Christmas gave way to a rapid thaw that caused hundreds of burst pipes in the water supply system, but NIW was criticised for its failure to handle calls from thousands of families.

NIW chief executive Laurence MacKenzie is expected to resign over his organisation's mishandling of the region's water crisis.