BETWEEN €25 and €30 million in grant funding could be available to households within the Ennis area as a result of an increase in the Group Sewerage Scheme grant, according to one local councillor.
However, while Minister Phil Hogan made the announcement in December of the increase, Clare County Council has yet to receive a circular from the department confirming the plans, officials for the local authority have stated.
This week’s meeting of Ennis East Electoral Area councillors saw Councillor Johnny Flynn urge Clare County Council to assess the numbers in Ennis and its environs that could benefit from being included in a group scheme and to pilot a number of them to avail of the grant increase.
“There is a grant scheme available and a lot of people are not aware of it and they need to be registered by February 1. There is potentially between €25m and €30m in grants available for this area,” he said.
He added, “Clare County Council, as a sanitary/water services authority with key objectives to enhance and protect public health and the environment, including better water quality, assess the number of existing groups of households in Ennis and its wider districts with septic tanks, in Ennis East, Ennis West and within Ennis Town boundaries that could benefit from being included in group sewerage scheme solutions.”
He said the council should, “pilot a number of them to avail of the announced increase in the grant for group sewerage schemes from €2,031.58 per house to €6,500 per house or 75% of the cost of the scheme, whichever is the lesser and the announcement that a number of pilot schemes based on an increase grant level will be carried out”.
Responding to the notice of motion, Sean Ward, senior engineer with Clare County Council, stated, “An announcement in late 2012 by the minister about increasing the Group Sewerage Scheme (GSS) grant to €6,500 per house has not been definitely confirmed to Clare County Council by a departmental circular, as would usually happen, and no such information has been posted on the website of the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government (DECLG).”
He outlined that the DECLG’s circular of December 18, 2012 invited councils to submit estimated 2013 requirements for group water schemes and the Small Schemes Programme. The circular was not definite about any changes in Group Sewerage Scheme (GSS) funding limits – it stated the DECLG is “considering increasing” the maximum grant per house to €6,500, with the maximum percentage grant of 75% of the scheme cost still remaining in place.
“Councils are invited to submit pilot GSSs, which might be viable based on an increase in the grant. Clare County Council will prepare a number of submissions for various locations in the county, including the environs of Ennis, and will submit them to the DECLG in an order of priority based on the circular, that is, the relative public health and environmental benefits that will be achieved. We have not yet been notified of the deadline date for submission for GSS proposals.”
Councillors welcomed the scheme but concerns were raised by Councillor Pat Daly about the lack of confirmation given to the council. “It’s a great scheme but we need confirmation if it is happening,” he said.
Councillor Tommy Brennan asked if Clonroadmore would be viable for the scheme, while Councillor Sonny Scanlan asked how many houses were needed to be in a group scheme.
Eamon O’Dea, senior executive engineer, stated a number of areas in Ennis could be viable for a group scheme if the increase is to come into effect. “There have been serious enquiries about group schemes but the grant of over €2,500 meant it was not viable, an increase to €6,500 could make it viable.”
The viability of works to facilitate houses on the Galway Road will be examined as a possible candidate scheme if the GSS grant is increased, a meeting of Ennis West Electoral Area councillors heard.
At the meeting, Councillor James Breen called for facilities to be put in place to allow houses from the roundabout on the Galway Road to Barefield National School to connect into the public sewer.
“The line is in place and it would eliminate the need for a lot of the septic tanks in the area, benefiting the environment and the community.
“People are prepared to tap into it at their own expense,” he said.
The councillor was informed by Mr Ward, senior engineer, that the matter would be investigated in the context of a possible increase in GSS funding.
“The works sought by this notice of motion would require major capital expenditure, which Clare County Council could not afford from its own resources, as well as continual pumping costs once the capital works were completed.
“In the context of a possible increase in the maximum grant for group sewerage schemes, Clare County Council will examine the viability of works sought as a possible candidate scheme for GSS funding.”