Septic Tank Standards Will Protect Groundwater

The Government has published the draft performance standards for septic tanks and other domestic waste water treatment systems. Members of the public now have an opportunity to consider these draft standards for the next four weeks and following that the Government will finalise the regulations to give effect to the standards.

The draft standards set out the responsibilities of owners of septic tanks and other systems including requirements for the removal of sludge and ensuring the system is in working order and properly functioning.

“If householders are meeting the requirements of these standards and their systems are not causing pollution, they have nothing to worry about,” points out Phil Hogan TD, Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government. “It is important that householders are aware of the location of their system and that they carry out a visual examination of their system at least once a year to ensure there is no evidence that it is causing pollution.”

Implementation of the new legislation is necessary not only to comply with the European Court of Justice ruling against Ireland in October 2009 and our obligations under the EU Waste Directive, but most importantly, to protect public health and the environment, particularly water quality. Having good quality water resources will also be an important factor in helping to attract new inward investment to support and create employment in local communities in sectors such as pharmaceuticals and ICT.

“The principal and immediate beneficiaries of the new legislation will be the householders, their families and their neighbours as it enhances the protection of groundwater, which is the source of drinking water for many people in rural Ireland. It will also help to enhance Ireland’s environmental reputation which in turn will have positive benefits for the tourism, agricultural and food producing sectors,” the Minister comments.

The Water Services (Amendment) Act 2012 provides for the establishment of a registration system for domestic waste water treatment systems. There will be an initial €5 registration charge for the first three months to encourage householders to register. Following that period, the registration charge will be €50. The registration system is currently being developed and is expected to be ready in mid April.

The Environmental Protection Agency will be developing a National Inspection Plan which will be implemented by the local authorities. The Plan will provide for a risk-based approach to inspections to identify on-site systems which are causing pollution. Inspections will commence in 2013.

The Plan will be completed by the end of this year and details of how and where inspections will take place will be made available thereafter. There is no fee for inspections.

The standards will be finalised after submissions made on foot of the public consultation process have been considered. The standards will then be incorporated into Regulations to be made under Section 70L of the Water Services (Amendment) Act 2012 and will thereby be underpinned by statute. The closing date for receipt of submissions is 4 pm on Friday, 30 March, 2012.

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