Minister for Environment Must Provide Temporary Exemption of Waste Water Requirements for One-off Houses, Says Oireachtas Committee

The Minister for the Environment and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) must provide as a matter of urgency, a temporary exemption for some parts of the country, from the new waste water regulations relating to the construction of one-off houses, a report by the Oireachtas European Scrutiny Committee has stated.

The Committee is calling on the Minister to impose a temporary exemption on this issue particularly for those parts of the country whose soil type is such that it will not comply with the new wastewater standards and will effectively lead to the refusal of the majority of applications for single housing.

In October 2009 there was a judgement by the European Court of Justice which set out comprehensive requirements in relation to the design, installation and maintenance of on-site wastewater systems for applications of new single housing. The EPA code of practice requires a new set of percolation tests (T90) to assess the ability of the soil to absorb water.

The purpose of the test is to ensure that on-site wastewater disposal systems such as septic tanks operate properly and are not a threat to public health and water quality.

“Of course the Committee fully backs any move to make sure that facilities such as septic tanks and on-site sewage treatment systems do not cause pollution or impact on the quality of water,” says Oireachtas Committee chairman, John Perry TD. However, the current proposal whereby a ‘once size fits all’ approach being taken fails to take account of important factors such as variations in soil type in different parts of the country.”

For example, in a county like Leitrim local soil conditions and rainfall levels would mean that up to 90% of sites would fail to the meet the new generic standards. “We are not asking that safety standards are bypassed in these areas but we are requesting that a temporary exemption be allowed to provide time for the current ongoing tests of other systems to be completed,” he adds.

The report is being sent to the Minister for Environment, John Gormley TD who is being asked to discuss the report with the Committee at a future meeting.

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