He has called on the Minister for the Environment, Phil Hogan to outline how his Government proposes to support struggling families to cope with the cost of replacing septic tanks deemed to be faulty under an EU Waste Water Directive now to be implemented later this year.
Cost estimates vary between €12k and €18k.
The TD was speaking after the Minister finally announced plans for the implementation of the Directive in the 26 Counties.
Deputy Mac Lochlainn and Sinn Féin have organised two public meetings in Donegal North East to raise public awareness about the issue and build support for their campaign against the unfair financial burden this may have on many rural families.
He said Sinn Féin Councillors also ensured that motions opposing these costs were passed at Donegal County Council and Letterkenny Town Council.
Deputy Mac Lochlainn said: “The potential costs to rural households in meeting this Directive if an inspection results in an instruction to replace a septic tank is the main concern for rural families in Donegal and across the state.
“Minister Phil Hogan has not mentioned any Government support to hard pressed families that may be left with costs in the thousands of euro.
“Fairness and equality must be central to government policy and this requires equal support for those living in rural and urban areas. However it is clear that the Government’s approach to this Directive discriminates against rural Donegal.”
The Inishowen man said hundreds of millions are spent by Central Government and Local Authorities every year on Capital projects that upgrade urban waste water systems.
Over the last decade, tens of millions have been spent in Donegal alone in urban areas of the county.
Every single rural household had to pay thousands for the site assessment required under planning laws and for the installation of the septic tank itself.
“So urban waste water are entirely free, subsidised by general taxation and rural waste water systems are not subsidised one cent by general taxation,” said the TD
He continued: “Furthermore, even with all that investment in urban waste water treatment in Donegal, many towns and villages are still heavily polluting Loughs, rivers and streams. And Central Government and Donegal County Council are going to preach to rural householders about environmental standards!
“So, while any reasonable person would of course agree that we need to protect our water/ marine systems, the arguments put forward for implementation of this EU Directive smack of double standards and are unjust to rural communities.
“The bottom line is that all waste water systems should be equally subsidised to reach an acceptable environmental standard, funded by general taxation and EU funding.
“Or are we taxing people for living in rural communities. A fresh air tax if you like.”
He concluded: “There should be no registration charge for septic tank householders whatsoever as is the case in other EU member states and no inspection fee whatsoever. But most importantly, the Government must immediately outline how they intend to support rural families forced to replace their septic tanks. There must be a level playing pitch for rural and urban families”
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