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July 27, 2016, 12:14 a.m.
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Homeowners who have not paid their Irish Water bills will have the lead pipes leading to their properties replaced, the company has confirmed.
Irish Water is to spend about €370 million over the next 10 years replacing lead pipes leading to about 180,000 homes.
In about 40,000 of these houses, the lead pipes are “shared backyard” services on the homeowners’ properties.
To date, Irish Water has collected €162 million in household water charges – less than half of what it is owed.
During the last billing period, from January to March, revenue dropped by more than 45 per cent to €18.3 million, as households reacted to a Government decision to suspend domestic water charges for nine months from July.
During this period, while the exchequer will finance the shortfall in revenue, customers will remain liable for any outstanding balances on their bills. However, a spokeswoman for Irish Water said “no link is being made between the replacement of pipes and the payment of bills”.
Of these homes, about 40,000 are supplied from shared backyard lead pipes, typically in estates built in Dublin from the 1940s to the 1960s, and Irish Water has agreed to also replace these pipes. However, lead pipes inside the home – and pipes in the gardens of the 140,000 houses not on shared backyard pipes – will be the responsibilty of the householder to replace.
While owners of houses built before 1980 – when lead was commonly used for water pipes – are advised to have their pipes checked for lead, they are not legally required to replace them. However, Irish Water is operating an “opt-in” system, whereby householders who can verify that they have had their internal pipes replaced will be prioritised for pipe replacement of the public service connection leading to their county boundary.
The Department of the Environment last year established a grant scheme to assist lower income households to replace lead pipes.
However, due to the length of time full pipe replacement is likely to take, Irish Water plan to add the chemical orthophosphate at water treatment plants which reduces the amount of lead which can enter the system. The mitigation plan and associated environmental reports are at