Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Environment and Local Government Barry Cowen TD has pointed out that senior Irish Water officials have contradicted Minister for Environment Alan Kelly over comments he made regarding the number of homeowners estimated to be at risk of contamination as a result of lead pipes in their homes.

Deputy Cowen made the comments after raising a special Dáil debate on the matter which followed a meeting with senior officials at Irish Water.

“Just last week Minister Kelly announced a grant scheme to partially cover the costs of replacing dangerous lead plumbing in up to 200,000 homes across the country. This is despite the fact that his predecessor Minister Hogan indicated that the Irish Water ‘first fix’ scheme would cover the full costs of replacing dangerous lead piping. Nonetheless last week’s news offered some encouragement for concerned homeowners” said Deputy Cowen.

“However I recently met with senior officials at Irish Water, and what they  told me contradicts the comments made by Minister Kelly when he outlined the details of the grant scheme.

“Senior officials at Irish Water have acknowledged that they do not know the number of homes containing lead pipes in Ireland. They have said that up to 400,000 homes could be affected, almost double the figure outlined by Minister Kelly. To make matters worse, they have stated that they do not know the average cost of replacing the affected pipes.

“The officials also pointed out that there was no correlation between the identification of lead pipes and the roll out of water meters across the country. This cast’s further doubt over Minister Kelly’s judgement considering he indicated that the roll out of water meters would allow Irish Water to identify all of the lead piping that needs replacing.

“These revelations bring into question the viability of the grant scheme announced by Minister Kelly. The Minister gave the distinct impression that he can get approval and money from cabinet to fund the grant scheme, but this is questionable considering Irish Water themselves do not know the full extent of the problem.

“The fact that a senior official at Irish Water has said that up to 400,000 homeowners could be affected, twice the number outlined by Minister Kelly, will inevitably result in the grant scheme becoming inundated with claims that had not been anticipated or planned for.

“Minister Kelly needs to clarify what information he is using to devise the grant scheme, why Irish Water will not stand over the figures he is using and how this impacts on his overall proposals” said Deputy Cowen.