Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Agriculture and Community Éamon Ó Cuív has said the announcement of a grant scheme for septic tank owners need work is a ‘small step in the right direction’ but that it fails the test of fairness for rural dwellers.

Speaking following this week’s announcement by the Environment Minister Phil Hogan, the Galway West Deputy said it will come as a relief to septic tank owners in Co Galway and across the country that there will be at least some support for those facing hefty bills for upgrade and replacement works.  However he has expressed his disappointment at the fact that the grant has been limited to a maximum of €4,000.

“Minister Hogan and his Fine Gael colleagues have consistently attempted to underplay the impact of their controversial septic tank legislation on rural dwellers. It is relief this week that the Minster has finally realised that his legislation unfairly penalised rural communities, and has now agreed to our demands for a grant scheme,” said Deputy Ó Cuív.

“While this grant scheme is certainly a step in the right direction, it is somewhat disappointing that the Minister has capped the grant at €4,000, has imposed a means-test and has not given grants of 100%, which is totally at variance with the situation in areas with public sewerage schemes.  Homeowners requiring major works on their septic tanks will still be liable for a large proportion of bill.  The fact that the Minister has seen fit to set a maximum level is in itself proof of the fact that he realises that many septic tanks will require expensive upgrades under his plan,” he said.

The Fianna Fáil Deputy called on the Minister to immediately publish the National Inspection Plan, which has been prepared by the EPA. The plan will detail where the inspection will take place and what standards will apply.

“Previous reports this year suggested that more than 16,000 septic tanks at homes and businesses the Western region have been identified as posing a risk and will be on the inspection hit-list. The situation remains very uncertain for these homeowners until they know whether they will be in the firing line under Minister Hogan’s plan. It is only when the National Inspection Plan is published that we’ll know the full impact of this legislation on septic tank owners,” he said.

Deputy Ó Cuív concluded,  “In view of the fact that grant aid is dependent on registering by the 31st January, I am urging all householders with private waste water systems to register by that date.”