TENS of thousands of families will be saddled with bills of more than €5,000 after the Government admitted the country's lead crisis was far more severe than feared.
Some 200,000 homes - as well as schools, hospitals, prisons and nursing homes - are suffering from lead contamination.
The alarming figures prompted a senior HSE official to warn women against bottle feeding their children.
Environment Minister Alan Kelly is now seeking to roll out a grant scheme by September aimed at providing financial assistance to low-income households with lead plumbing.
The grants will be closely modelled on the septic tank remediation scheme and will allow households with incomes up to €50,000 to receive 80pc of the costs back, up to a maximum of €4,000.
There will be a separate band in place for those earning €50,001-€75,000, who can claim up to 50pc of the costs back, up to a maximum of €2,500.
Tax relief for projects involving lead removal will also be available through the Home Renovation Scheme.
The scale of the lead problem was revealed yesterday after Irish Water sent details of its metering programme to the department. Some 28,000 homes will now be written to immediately and warned that they are at risk of lead contamination.
But Mr Kelly admitted that the Government could not say how many of the 200,000 families affected will qualify for the grant scheme.
Families who are not deemed to be living on low incomes face bills in the region of €5,000 and even higher in some cases where lead levels are greater.
A spokesman for Taoiseach Enda Kenny said he was "not happy" that families will be saddled with the bills, but said the Government would endeavour to provide the necessary support.
But the Government has been strongly criticised for waiting years before tackling the crisis - despite repeated warnings about the dangers of lead levels from environmental experts.