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Cummins calls for revised grants for private water supplies to reflect costs involved

Senator also calls for deadline for claims under the scheme to be extended due to lockdown

Grants for private water supplies must be revised to reflect the true cost of installation, a Fine Gael Senator has said.

Speaking in Seanad Éireann, Fine Gael Spokesperson on Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Senator John Cummins, said the level of grant available for the treatment element of the scheme is often not sufficient to cover the costs involved, particularly in areas where ground water is poor.

Senator Cummins said: “Over one in ten Irish people get their water from private water supplies.

“Varying levels of grants are available under the Rural Water Programme for the carrying out of works to a private water supply, be that for sinking a new well, rehabilitating an older supply or putting in treatment to improve the water quality.

“Under the scheme a householder is entitled to apply for a 100% grant up to a maximum of €1,000 for treatment to improve water quality, which typically consists of the installation of filtration and/or UV treatment.

“All the grants are paid based on the cost of the works incurred by the householder but unfortunately the level of grant available for the treatment element of the scheme is often not sufficient to cover the costs involved, particularly in areas where ground water is poor.

“I know in my own county of Waterford, many rural householders face costs of €1500 and in extreme cases up to €3,000 for treatment works to improve their water quality but the level of grant available is only €1,000. It is true to say in certain circumstances when the ground water is good, the €1,000 level is sufficient but in many cases it is not.”

Senator Cummins said: “Rather than an overarching increase to the grant, I am suggesting a restructuring.

“Instead of a household being able to apply for the up to €3,000 available for works on an existing supply or for up to €5,000 for a new well, plus the €1,000 treatment grant, that the words ‘and/or’ be inserted into the scheme and a combined figure of €7,000 be used which would enable a householder who incurs significant treatment costs to have them covered in full.

“This would simply be a reprofiling of the scheme and wouldn’t actually result in significant additional costs, it would basically allow householders to use the unused part of the grant for new or rehabilitated wells and allow them to use it for water treatment which as I’ve said is often well above the €1,000 level that’s provided for.”

Alternatively, Senator Cummins suggested an increased figure of €3,000 could be implemented where a householder was applying for a treatment grant only. He explained that householders are only eligible to claim the costs incurred so such a change wouldn’t result in all claims suddenly becoming €3,000.

“I have been told by my Fine Gael colleague Peter Burke, the Minister with responsibility for this area, that these points will be taken into account in an upcoming review of the scheme in June,” he said.

Senator Cummins also raised the matter of all local authorities being issued with a letter in January instructing them to close out all grants approved under the scheme up to June 2020 before the 30th March.

“Given the level 5 restrictions which are in place and the fact that construction has been stopped since the start of the year, I don’t think it’s reasonable to force people who were approved for works under the scheme last year which haven’t been completed yet to reapply again.

“And likewise, I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect Local Authority staff to be able to undertake the heavy workload involved in testing and approving works which have been completed in such a tight timeframe because it can often take multiple visits by staff to test and retest water supplies to check for quality.

“I am calling for this deadline be extended to the end of the year to allow Local Authorities the time and space to write out to all those who were approved last year to inform them that works need to be completed and examined before year end.

“The Minister has informed me that the Department will consider an extension to the scheme and I look forward to engaging with him further on the matter.”

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