Hundreds of families living in estates damaged by pyrite in the foundations of houses say a new testing regime will curb their access to the State compensation scheme.
The pyrite remediation scheme was set up in 2013 to address structural damage arising from “pyritic heave”, where the presence of the mineral in the foundations has caused subsidence and cracks in the structure.
The Pyrite Resolution Board said more than 10,000 homes completed between January 1997 and December 2013 in Meath, Kildare, Offaly and Dublin have been affected by pyrite.
However, the board estimated that fewer than 1,000 cases – the most severe – will qualify for the repairs scheme. To qualify, properties must be assessed as having “significant” damage due to pyritic heave and are classed as “Category 2” properties.
The majority of properties are in Category 1, where pyrite may be present but has yet to manifest itself in “significant” structural damage.
The Pyrite Equality Group say new testing standards published by the National Standards Authority of Ireland (NSAI), which are available for submissions until Tuesday, will make it harder for households to progress from Category 1 to Category 2 and to qualify to have their homes fixed.
“The majority of houses in pyrite estates are left in limbo in Category 1. This means we are not bad enough to be remediated, yet also not good enough to sell. Our estates are blacklisted by the various banks/mortgage providers,” group spokesman Daithi MacFhionnlaoich said.
The current standards operate on a scoring system for cracks in floors, walls and ceilings, but the new standards award points based on the severity of damage, rather than just the presence of damage.
“This approach makes no sense. In effect a house has to deteriorate to the extent where it is riddled with pyrite damage before it will be fixed,” Mr MacFhionnlaoich said.
In his own estate in Ashbourne about 70 houses out of a total 198 have so far been classed as Category 2 and are being fixed. He said the group was not seeking to have every house in a pyrite-affected estate remediated, but where there is a high incidence in an estate, the foundations should be tested to determine the likelihood of future damage.
“If the level of pyrite found is consistent with future pyritic upheaval, then accept the house on to the remediation scheme; on the other side, if not deemed to be at risk in the future, issue a green [pyrite-free] certificate and let people move on with their lives,” he said.
In a statement the NSAI said the standard was being updated and revised to reflect the experiences of the engineers, surveyors and geologists who had been using it during the past three years.
“As anyone who has been affected by pyrite will know, pyrite is unpredictable. NSAI’s Reactive Pyrite Technical Committee expects that this revised standard will further reduce the possibility of ambiguity in deciding and interpreting results, and so will give more clarity to the categorisation process,” it said.