To ask the Minister for Housing; Planning and Local Government his plans to expand the pyrite scheme to support homeowners with evidence of mica contamination in blocks in north Leinster and beyond; and if he will make a statement on the matter. – Clare Daly T.D.
Neither I, nor my Department, are aware of any existing issue that has emerged in the concrete blockwork of certain dwellings in the Fingal area.
As you are aware, an Expert Panel on Concrete Blocks was established by my Department in 2016, and its terms of reference were limited to the investigation of the problems that have emerged in the concrete blockwork of certain dwellings in Counties Donegal and Mayo.
In 2017, the report of the Expert Panel was published and included eight recommendations, which my Department is actively progressing. Further to recommendation 1 of the report of the Expert Panel, a standardised protocol was published by the National Standards Authority of Ireland (NSAI) on 13 November 2018 and is available at www.nsai.ie.
This standard can be used by homeowners anywhere in the country, including Fingal, to assess and categorise the damage in properties where the concrete blocks are suspected to contain the minerals mica or pyrite and it will inform the course of action in relation to remedial works for all such affected properties.
Previously, there was no common way for engineers or homeowners to assess the damage caused by defective concrete blocks, in order to decide what, if any, remedial work could be carried out. It is important, however to note, that in general, building defects are matters for resolution between the contracting parties involved: the homeowner, the builder, the developer and/or their respective insurers, structural guarantee or warranty scheme.
To ask the Minister for Housing; Planning and Local Government his plans to commission a review of the pyrite remediation scheme.
The pyrite remediation scheme is a scheme of “last resort” for affected homeowners who have no other practical option to obtain redress and is limited in its application and scope. The full conditions for eligibility under the scheme are set out on the Pyrite Remediation Board’s website at www.pyriteboard.ie.
The provisions of the Act apply only to dwellings affected by significant damage attributable to pyritic heave consequent on the presence of reactive pyrite in the subfloor hardcore material and not to damage arising in any other circumstance, e.g. such as pyrite in concrete blocks. It is a condition of eligibility under the scheme that an application to the Board must be accompanied by a Building Condition Assessment with a Damage Condition Rating of 2. Dwellings which do not have a Damage Condition Rating of 2 are not eligible to apply under the scheme. This ensures that, having regard to the available resources, the focus of the scheme is on dwellings which are most severely damaged by pyritic heave.
I have no proposals to amend this eligibility criterion or to commence a review of the scheme more generally.
To ask the Minister for Housing; Planning and Local Government further to Parliamentary Question Nos. 290 and 291 of 14 November 2018, his plans to expand the scheme to support homeowners beyond counties Donegal and Mayo in view of the fact that an organisation alerted its members to pyrite contamination in blocks in north Leinster in 2014 indicating that contamination is not confined to those two counties; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
As I understand it, the matter referred to by the Deputy, relating to pyrite contamination in concrete blocks in 2014, was resolved by the contracting parties at that time. Furthermore, the issue was dealt with by the relevant market surveillance authority under the European Union (Construction Products) Regulations 2013 and by building control authorities under the Building Control Acts 1990 – 2014 in the affected region.
Separately, in 2013, the issue of external walls of dwellings displaying significant cracking in Donegal was raised with my Department. The nature of the problem related to the crumbling of the concrete blockwork in the external walls of affected dwellings, thereby compromising their structural integrity and giving rise to considerable personal distress to the many homeowners involved. At that time, several hundred homes were suspected to be affected in north Donegal. The presence of muscovite mica in abundant quantities in the aggregate constituent of the concrete blocks was suggested as being one of the main factors contributing to the deterioration of the concrete blocks.
By the end of 2013, similar problems had also come to light in both public and private dwellings located in west Mayo and Mayo County Council submitted a report to my Department on problems that had been identified with the concrete blockwork in their social housing stock. In this instance, it was the presence of pyrite in the aggregate constituent of the concrete block that was suggested as being one of the main factors contributing to the deterioration of the concrete blocks. The emergence of similar problems among private households located in County Mayo was also reported in 2013.
An Expert Panel on Concrete Blocks was established by my Department in 2016 and its terms of reference were limited to the investigation of the problems that have emerged in the concrete blockwork of certain dwellings in Counties Donegal and Mayo.
Under Budget 2019, the Government approved in principle the development of a grant scheme of financial assistance to support affected homeowners in the two counties to carry out the necessary remediation works to dwellings that have been damaged due to defective concrete blocks.
The putting in place of such a scheme is now a key priority for the Department and work is well underway on the development of such a scheme, including discussions with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform in relation to funding. It is intended to revert to Government with proposals for the scheme as soon as possible with a view to publishing details of the scheme thereafter. It should be noted that this scheme will only apply to affected homeowners in Donegal and Mayo.
A standardised protocol was published by the National Standards Authority of Ireland (NSAI) on 13 November 2018 and is available at www.nsai.ie. This standard can be used by homeowners anywhere in the country to assess and categorise the damage in properties where the concrete blocks are suspected to contain the minerals mica or pyrite and it will inform the course of action in relation to remedial works for all such affected properties.