The Can’t Pay Won’t Pay campaign in Donegal has welcomed a government announcement to provide grant relief for septic tank repairs. This is an indication of the success of the boycott campaign. Up until now the Government had insisted that the home owners would bear the full cost of repairs. This compromise is a result of the campaign’s successful boycott of the registration process.
The announcement represents a victory for the campaign but should be viewed with caution. The grant does not go far enough. Those who will qualify for the grant, after a means test, will more than likely still face a significant bill. And only those who have registered by the 1st of February will be eligible for the grants.
Grants of up to €4,000 has been announced by the Minister for Local Government, which will provide some assistance to people living in isolated areas and not connected to the public sewerage system. However, this will not solve the problem of ground water pollution. Studies paid for by the taxpayer, of the pollution arising from septic tanks, concluded that up to 40% of the land in the state is not suitable for percolation systems which are the essential element of a waste water treatment system.
The elimination of ground water pollution requires the construction of networks of public sewers, pumping stations and treatment plants to which rural housing could be connected. A project of this nature has the potential to employ thousands of workers across the country to construct this essential infrastructure.
These problems cannot be solved on an individual basis irrespective of the provision of a grant relief scheme. The campaign must keep up the pressure and continue to enforce its boycott.