Celtic Tiger-era housing estate water services may cost State €300m

Over 560 estates with developer-provided infrastructure not linked to public services

Some estates, built in the 1990s and 2000s, have no connection to public water services. Instead they have temporary facilities put in place by the developers.

Some estates, built in the 1990s and 2000s, have no connection to public water services. Instead they have temporary facilities put in place by the developers.

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The State is facing costs of €300 million to take charge of more than 500 Celtic Tiger-era housing estates which have inadequate water and waste water services.

A recent briefing paper for Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien disclosed that 566 housing estates throughout the country have what is termed developer-provided infrastructure (DPI) services.

These estates, built in the 1990s and 2000s, have no connection to public water services. Instead they have temporary facilities put in place by the developers. In essence, these are privately owned wastewater or water treatment plants. Most provide waste water treatment but a small number (31) provide drinking water to the estates concerned.

A wider problem for water and waste water services is that 643 villages across the State have no access to public wastewater collection and treatment infrastructure. A recent report by the Environmental Protection Agency said more than 30 coastal towns and villages in the State were pumping raw sewage into the ocean.

‘Economic downturn’

The Department of Housing briefing paper for Mr O’Brien states that DPI is “a legacy issue from poor practice and supervision in the construction industry during the Celtic Tiger years, in addition to problems caused by developers going bust during the economic downturn in the late 2000s”.

The department has been involved in a process since 2015 of taking these estates into charge and has approved a multiannual programme of investment to connect them to Irish Water services.

An initial €3.36 million allocation was made to 26 estates across 10 counties, with a total of 950 households to benefit. Five of the estates were in Donegal, with four each in Wexford and Cork. The largest estimated cost of bringing a single estate into the public water programme was more than €500,000 for Dromore Park in Killygordon, Co Donegal.

Legacy issues

Funding is expected to increase in the coming years. The National Development Plan is expected to provide €68.5 million for legacy issues in relation to lead pipe remediation and the developer-provided water services infrastructure resolution programme.

Mr O’Brien told The Irish Times that the multiannual programme would begin to bring these housing estates into the public water infrastructure over time but added that there were varying degrees of complexity, depending on the location. He said the legacy has presented a “big environmental problem”.

“On a larger level, we will also be looking at towns and villages that do not have any connection with public water services as to how we can move them quickly into the Irish Water infrastructure,” he said.

He said that an overall coherent plan for managing such legacy issues would be addressed in the River Basin Management Plan 2022, which is currently being prepared.