Towns and villages like Carrigaline have seen raw sewage seeping into their waterways due to faulty septic tanks and sewerage systems. Photo: Chris Hill

Cost was ‘absolutely ridiculous’

Raw sewage from faulty septic tanks in housing estates is seeping into rivers and lakes around the county.

That was the claim from Fine Gael Cllr Kevin Murphy who is calling on the Department of Housing to make grant aid readily available for households where septic tanks and sewage systems are defunct or out of order.

Speaking at Monday’s full meeting of Cork County Council, the Bandon-Kinsale councillor slammed a letter of response received from the Department of Housing which he said completely “side-stepped” the issue.

“It gives a half-baked story which does not answer the questions I asked. I distinctly asked, quite clearly, that grant aid would be made available for households. They did not answer any part of that question. “They said all other information is available on the website. I checked the website and you can't even get into it. I nearly broke my screen trying to press the button,” said Cllr Murphy.

He continued: “We need to ask the question once and for all, how much money has been paid out in grant aid for sewage systems that are defunct or otherwise malfunctioning in Cork county? I'm well aware the scheme is available but nothing is being paid out.”

Fellow Fine Gael Cllr Anthony Barry was also vocal about the issue calling it a “huge problem” and highlighting that the price to upgrade septic tanks or to connect to nearby public sewerage systems is far too high for most people.

Cllr Barry said: “I had a case recently where a group of over 20 houses made an application and the cost per house was absolutely ridiculous so the whole thing fell apart. The public system was only 150 yards away but the cost was so big they just didn't touch it. The cost of connecting up to the company systems is totally prohibitive for anyone who wants to do it. We definitely need to respond back to this ridiculous response we got.”

From an environmental perspective, Carrigaline Cllr Michael Paul Murtagh, also Fine Gael, said there have been many instances of sewage seeping into waterways in his area.

“In my own village of Crosshaven, we have special areas of conservation and from an environmental point of view it's just not acceptable. We have endangered species down here and I think we really need to address this,” said the councillor.

Mayor of the County of Cork Cllr Gillian Coughlan agreed with the call for funding and clarity around sewerage grant aid schemes and committed to asking the Department of Housing for a detailed breakdown of exactly how much money has been paid out for those schemes.

“It's all very fine for money to be budgeted but if it's not reaching where it needs to go, then it's only an accountancy exercise,” she said.

In the response letter to Cllr Kevin Murphy’s original motion, Department of Housing Private Secretary Niamh Redmond wrote: “Under the current cycle of the Multi-Annual Rural Water Programme, my department provides specific grant assistance towards rural waste water infrastructure as follows: - Measure 6 supports waste water collection networks - called Community Waste Water Connections as demonstration projects - for population clusters, currently on deficient individual waste water treatment systems that are immediately adjacent to towns and villages. The Community Waste Water Connections are extensions to the existing public waste water collection system and a condition of funding is that such connections are taking in charge by Irish Water once developed. - Measure 8 - makes provision for grant assistance to householders in carrying out remediation, repair or upgrading works to, or replacement of, a domestic waste water treatment systems (septic tanks) where these are located in areas specifically prioritised for environmental protection for the purposes of the grant scheme or where identified as requiring action under a national inspection programme.”