Just 19 grants paid out for septic tank repairs as critics say scheme is ‘too restrictive and convoluted’

The department is coming under pressure to revise the eligibility criteria and application process which critics say are too restrictive and convoluted.

At the start of this year, the grants increased from up to €5,000 to up to €12,000, but there are fears the number of people able to avail of them has fallen.

Last year, 194 grants were paid to homeowners through their local authorities and just over 200 were paid in 2022.

The Department of Housing said the works involved typically took a number of months to complete.

The response I got was so convoluted. I understood it said I wasn’t eligible but I couldn’t understand why

“Local authorities claim from the department at the end of the process so there are applications working through the system on an ongoing basis,” a spokesperson said.

However, Dr Matt Crowe, chair of the National Water Forum, said the issue needed close monitoring. “It [19] seems like a very small number given the number of septic tanks we suspect are not functioning properly,” he said.

Half a million homes in Ireland use septic tanks to process their sewage and wastewater.

The Environmental Inspection Agency (EPA) reported last month that 45pc of those inspected failed to meet required standards.

That was better than 2022 when 49pc failed but the EPA has repeatedly expressed concern at the high failure rate and the risks associated with it. It urges people to make use of the grants to fix problems.

However, TDs from all parties have raised concerns about the grants in parliamentary questions and other Oireachtas forums in recent months.

To be eligible to even apply, a home must be pre-selected as part of the National Inspection Plan or be in a “High Status Objective Catchment Area” or a “Priority Area for Action”.

Establishing eligibility can mean consulting multiple state agencies, documents, interactive maps and officials.

Retired homeowner Michael Moloney who lives near Ballyneety Co Limerick found it almost impossible to decipher the criteria.

“A neighbour complained to the council so I was inspected and there is a problem which I completely accept,” he said.

septic tank

“People were being encouraged to apply for the grants so I thought, I’ll do that. But the response I got was so convoluted. I understood it said I wasn’t eligible but I couldn’t understand why.”

Dr Crowe said a complicated grants system might put people off making essential repairs. “The State can’t pay for everyone so there has to be criteria but the process needs to be as simple and clear as possible.”

Mr Moloney said he would have to save up the estimated €12,000 cost of his repairs which would take time. “That’s not fair to my neighbour and I have a notice hanging over me from the council,” he said.

He said it would be much more effective if the grants were open to everyone but with payments graded in value depending on the urgency of the problem.

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