The Water Services Act 2007 has been introduced to make Ireland compliant with a European Court of Justice ruling in October 2009 where the Court found that Ireland had failed to fulfil its obligations regarding domestic waste waters.
Some Important Figures:
€50 Registration Fee* to be paid by the property owner to register their septic tank every 5 years. The revenue from the fee will be used to defray the costs of the water services authority and insure there are no Exchequer or staffing implications arising.
*In Feb 2012 Minister for the Environment, Phil Hogan announced a discounted Registration Fee of €5 for early registration - before 28/09/2012. This has now expired.
Under the legislation anyone who owns a septic tank or a waste-water treatment system needs to register. Householders can now register their treatment system. See Septic Tank Registration
€200 Re-inspection Fee The scope of the re-inspection includes surveys, excavations, monitoring, testing of samples, etc. and so therefore the re-inspection fee is a partial contribution to the actual costs.
€5,000 Guilty of an offence The owner must ensure that the on-site waste water treatment system serving the premises is maintained and operated in a manner that does not cause risk to human health or the environment. Owners must also register their systems with the relevant water services authority by the prescribed date. Failure by an owner of a premises served by a treatment system to carry out any of the requirements of the legislation will be issued with a maximum fine of €5,000.
Maintenance of System
Owners must maintain their treatment systems so that they do not pose a risk to human health or the environment and in particular not to:
create a risk to water, air, soil, plants or animals,cause a nuisance through odours, or
cause pollution to the countryside or places of special interest — these include Special Areas of Conservation, Special Protection Areas and Natural Heritage Areas.
- provides that owners must ensure that their treatment systems are included on the register of such systems
The Department of Environment have stated that here is no question of imposing modern standards, for example those set out in the EPA’s 2009 Code of Practice, to older systems. Nor is there any question of householders having to acquire additional land to facilitate remediation work. Where an on-site system fails an inspection, the remediation work required will be based on factors such as the nature of the problem, the extent of risk to public health or the environment, existing site size and the hydrological and geological conditions present.
Inspections will be objective and evidence-based. Householders can be assured that if their systems are working properly and are being maintained, they need not be concerned. There will be a proportionate and risk-based approach to inspections, which will be targeted towards areas where drinking water sources or habitats are at risk from septic tank discharges.
Inspections under the new legislation will probably not commence until 2013 and details will be made available at that time in the national and local media. Householders should take care not to allow uninvited persons, or persons claiming to be septic tank inspectors, to enter onto their property in advance of the launch of inspections.
Householders will be formally notified by their local authority if their domestic waste water treatment system is to be inspected and inspectors will be required to carry identification and to present this on request to householders.
Once notification of an inspection has been provided by a water services authority, it will be an offence for a person to prevent an inspector from entering a premises (not the dwelling), to obstruct or impede an inspector when carrying out their duties, or to provide false or misleading information regarding a treatment system to an inspector, the EPA or a water services authority. There will be no charge for inspections.
Once an Inspector has concluded the inspection they will notify the owner AND the relevant water services authority within 21 days of his/her opinion and the reasons for same. In the event a system is deemed to be unfit for purpose in its current condition then a direction to the owner to carry out necessary remediation works within a specified timeframe will be issued. Furthermore the system will have to be re-inspected once works have been completed.
The Department of the Environment has stated that all possible options to provide financial support to householders whose systems are deemed, following inspection, to require remediation or upgrading will be kept under review pending the commencement of inspections. The position regarding the extent of problems with domestic wastewater treatment systems and costs of remediation will then be clearer. Any grants scheme introduced will have to have regard to the overall budgetary situation and the financial position of the individual households concerned.
The Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Mr. Phil Hogan, T.D., stated on 06/02/2012...
“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.”
Ireland is facing a potential lump sum fine of €2.6 million as well as daily fines of €26k for as long as non-compliance continues. The Minister said 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. I look forward to debating the Bill with my Oireachtas colleagues and I hope to have the legislation enacted as early as possible.”
for early registration.
“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 concluded.
Environment Minister Phil Hogan had previously stated that he hoped to have the registration system for owners of private septic tanks in place by April. However, as yet there is no update on Registration - check back later for further updates when made available by the Minister and his Department.
The Environmental Protection Agency is developing a national inspection plan to be implemented by local authorities. It is hoped that details of where and how those inspections are to be conducted will be published towards the end of this year. It is envisaged, there will be no fee for inspections.
The full legislation can be downloaded here.