Registration and Inspection of Septic Tanks

The Government has set out its proposals for the registration and inspection of septic tanks including a reduced inspection fee for the first three months of the new regime. “To act as an incentive for owners to register early, I have decided to set the registration fee at €5 instead of the proposed €50 for the first three months,” explains the Minister for the Environment, Community & Local Government Phil Hogan TD. “I would encourage people to register before the 30th June 2012 and avail of the lower fee.” The deadline for registration is March 2013.

The Minister continues: “This legislation has been deliberately framed to minimise the impact on householders who can be assured that if their systems are working properly and are being maintained the impact of the new system will be minor. We are adopting a very practical approach to the inspection guidelines. Once my Department’s consultation with the EPA and the European Commission has been completed, I will formally announce the guidelines in two weeks which will be followed by a four week public consultation period.”

Practical operational requirements that will be included in the new guidelines include:

* Ensuring that roof water or surface water run-off is not allowed enter the treatment system;

* That grey-water from washing machines and sinks is being treated in the system;

* The pipe-works and vents of a system should not be blocked or obstructed;

* Manhole covers and other components of the system should be of good working order or sealed where appropriate;

* Any mechanical or electrical components of the system, for example pumps or alarms, should be fit for purpose;

* Recommendations will be included regarding the frequencies with which systems should be emptied or de-sludged.

The risk-based system of inspections will commence in 2013 and will be objective and evidence-based, i.e. unless there is evidence of endangerment of human health or the environment, the system in place will pass inspection.  There is no question of applying the EPA’s 2009 Code of Practice to older on-site systems.

The Water Services (Amendment) Act 2012 has now been signed into law. This Legislation has been introduced for three reasons:

1 Non-compliance with EU legislation: On 29 October 2009, the European Court of Justice ruled against Ireland in relation to the treatment of waste waters from septic tanks and other on-site wastewater treatment systems. The enactment of this legislation is a critical element in Ireland’s defence against the imposition of hefty fines by the Court.

2 Protect ground water in rural Ireland: 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. Responsibility for protection of public health and the environment applies to everyone, whether living in urban or rural areas. Environmental and health issues must be dealt with as circumstances dictate and where risks exist.

3 Protect jobs: The provision of a continuous supply of clean water is a fundamental requirement for the economy. High quality water and security of supply is vital to attract foreign direct investment, high-end employment, and meet the needs and demands of our existing businesses and communities.”

“No-one should have any difficulty with these common-sense requirements, after all, if a septic tank is leaking or causing waste water to pond on the surface, the most immediate risk is posed to the health of the owner of the system and of his family and neighbours,” says Minister Hogan.

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