The Government has published the Water Services (Amendment) Bill 2011. The Bill provides for a registration and inspection system for septic tanks which is required to address a European Court of Justice ruling against Ireland. Indeed, Ireland is facing a potential lump sum fine of €2.6 million as well as daily fines of €26,000 for as long as non-compliance continues.
“It is intended that inspections would be targeted to areas where drinking water sources or habitats are likely to be, or have been, impacted upon. The risk-based approach is intended to minimise the impact on householders and the likelihood is that inspections under the new system will commence in 2013,” explains the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Phil Hogan, TD.
The Minister says that he intends initiating the Bill in the Seanad later this month and he will be seeking to have the legislation enacted as a matter of priority. “If we do not comply with the ECJ ruling in a timely manner Ireland will be the subject of significant fines by the Court so it is my intention to proceed with the legislation without delay.”
The key features of the Bill are:
* All householders with septic tanks and other on-site systems will be required to register details of their system with the relevant local authority and a national register will be compiled and held by the EPA;
* Householders will be required to pay a modest registration fee (a fee of no more than €50 is envisaged);
* Following the initial registration, householders will not be required to re-register their systems for several years – an interval of 5 years is envisaged between each registration;
* The revenue generated will be used to fund the delivery of a national inspection plan which will be developed by the EPA and its roll-out will be managed by the local authorities;
* While inspections would be concentrated on areas with higher risk to the environment and public health, they will also be carried out in lower risk areas but at a lower rate;
* Inspections may give rise to householders being advised to improve the maintenance of their systems or, in more serious situations, may require the upgrading or remediation of the treatment system.
“While the majority of septic tanks may be working well, and in those cases the householders should have nothing to worry about, those tanks that are not working properly may be polluting groundwater and contaminating our drinking water supplies and must be remediated. The key objective of the new legislation is to enhance and protect public health and the environment which will, in turn, benefit rural dwellers in terms of a better quality of life and better quality water,” the Minister concludes.