HIGH LEVELS OF radon within Wicklow County Council's housing stock could see the council's finances spiralling out of control, as they face a bill of €1 million to bring the radon levels to an acceptable level.
Director of Services Michael Nicholson told members of the council on Monday that Wicklow has one of the highest levels of radon gas in the country.
He said the council currently had 2,200 houses on their books, 1,700 of them which had been built before 1998 when radon prevention measures came into place.
He said that to test each of these houses, at an average cost of €75 per house would cost €165,000. Any remedial works to houses affected would cost between €1,500 and €5,000 per house.
He said that the works however, were necessary and suggested that testing of the 1,700 houses begin in January and suggested to the members that the maintenance budget be reduced by €165,000 to make up the shortfall.
Cllr. Pat Fitzgerald, who had raised the matter in July, said that when 1,600 private houses in Wicklow were tested, 17 per cent of them were found to have high radon levels with one house having levels that was equivalent to 54 chest x-rays per day.
He said he hoped the work went ahead in the interest of people's health and was supported by Cllr. Jimmy O'Shaughnessy who said that perhaps the work could begin before Christmas. However like many councillors he was against shaving the money from the maintenance budget.
Cllr. Conal Kavanagh suggested that the council ask for special funding from the Department of the Environment and was supported by Cllr. John Brady who wondered what the final cost would be to the council once the affected houses were identified. 'Where will the money be found at that stage?' he wondered. Cllr. Jimmy Ruttle pointed out the liability issues facing the council if they didn't carry out the testing.
Mr. Nicholson said he had merely suggested taking the money from the maintenance budget as the upcoming budget would be so tight. He said that if the council housing stock had similar results to that seen in private houses (17 per cent) it would cost €1 million to carry out remedial works of installing a radon barrier.
Notwithstanding the financial concerns the members agreed to press on with the testing and now face finding €165,000 in the December budget to pay for it.