Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Environment Barry Cowen has said changes need to be made to the operation of the grant system for upgrading septic tanks to make it easier for people to gain access to funding.
Under the current regime only septic tanks that fail inspection will be eligible for a grant. However septic tank owners who are experiencing difficulty with their system can’t request an inspection or apply for a grant without having first failed an inspection.
Deputy Cowen said: “We have a ludicrous situation here where getting a grant to upgrade your septic tank is like trying to win the lotto. Under Phil Hogan’s regime you have to fail an inspection before being eligible for a grant but you can’t request an inspection because they’re conducted at random. For instance in my own county of Offaly the minimum number of inspections to be carried out by the local authority is 16. How is a homeowner who knows they have a problem with their septic tank expected to meet the criteria to secure a grant?
“I am aware of people who are incurring regular costs in maintaining their septic tank. They know their waste water treatment system needs to be upgraded but they cannot take on the full cost of upgrading it themselves.
“The Minister was very reluctant to have a grant scheme in the first place but the system he has announced is so restrictive you could only conclude he actually doesn’t want to provide meaningful help for people. It is in the best interests of the environment, the government and the owners who have septic tanks that are sub-standard that there is proper support for upgrade works.
“I am aware that the Environmental Protection Agency has been training local authority workers in the inspection process over the summer. The Minister shouldn’t undermine the process with the restrictive nature of the grant system. If Phil Hogan is serious about making an important impact on the environment and upgrading sub-standard septic tanks he should move to open up the grant system and allow people to seek an inspection in order for them to apply for financial assistance.”