Details of a grant scheme to provide financial assistance to households whose septic tanks and other domestic waste water treatment systems which may require remediation or upgrading following inspection under the Water Services Act were announced last week by Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Phil Hogan.
Inspections are expected to commence in 2013 and will be based on a national inspection plan currently being finalised by the Environmental Protection Agency. All domestic septic tanks and other waste water systems should be registered not later than February 1 on www.ProtectOurWater.ie or by post or in local authority offices. Waste water systems that have not been registered by 1st February will also be subject to inspection.
The grant will be paid at a rate of 80% (up to a maximum of €4,000) for households with an income of up to €50,000 and at a rate of 50% (up to a maximum of €2,500) for households with an income of up to €75,000.
Welcoming Minister Naughten’s announcement Frank Feighan TD said, “The importance of ensuring the safety of our groundwater cannot be overstated and despite the scaremongering in recent months, the majority of systems will not pose a problem. However, there may be some septic tanks that are polluting groundwater and contaminating drinking water supplies, posing a major health risk and this cannot go unchecked.
“Our water quality and how we protect our environment has implications not only for our own health but for our tourism, agri-food industry and foreign direct investment for sectors such as ICT and the pharmaceutical industry which rely on good quality water for production.”
The announcement was also welcomed by Deputy Denis Naughten who said, “While the grant scheme is welcome, and ties in with proposals which I put to the Department of the Environment earlier this year, it is important that the maximum grant payable be increased where significant works need to be carried out under the direction of the County Council and that the level of household debt is taken into account when assessing the income thresholds for the grant scheme.”
Furthermore, Naughten highlighted the need for proper regulation of contractors, so that vulnerable householders are protected: “While the vast majority of contractors are thoroughly professional, we have all come across instances where vulnerable people have paid vast sums of money to have tarmacadam laid or a roof repaired, but the work fell far short of even the most basic standards. In this case the work will be taking place underground, so it is imperative that there are proper systems in place to protect householders.”
Senator Michael Comiskey also reacted favourably to the announcement saying, “The grant scheme will be welcomed with relief by householders who are concerned about the cost of repairing or upgrading their systems if they should not meet the standards of the inspection system which is due to commence in 2013.
“The new system of inspections will address the risks associated with malfunctioning on-site waste water treatment systems and will enhance and protect public health and the environment. It will ensure a better quality water to householders.
“The new scheme will be a balanced one and will provide a higher level of support to those on lower incomes,” added Senator Comiskey.
Welcoming the announcement Cllr Gordon Hughes said, “I would like to welcome the fact that grant aid of up to €4,000 will be made available to people to upgrade their systems and also the fact that grant aid will be given to group schemes who may be interested in submitting a joint application for connection to mains sewage.”
Micheál Cholm Mac Giolla Easbuig, spokesperson for the Donegal branch of the Campaign Against Household and Water Taxes welcomed the announcement but insist they will continue to campaign “fairness for rural homeowners.” Mr MacGiolla Easbuig stated, ““There is one reason and one reason only why the government have announced that grants of up to €4,000 will be made available for remedial works and that is the success of the non-registration campaign. Rural Ireland has been in revolt on this issue and homeowners have made it very clear they were not prepared to sign up to underwrite costs of thousands of euro for decades of official neglect and mismanagement. The strength of the boycott on septic tank registration and indeed on Household Charge registration have forced the government to make this concession. All along the government has been insistent that homeowners must pay the full costs.”