There is no substance to the media reports (as outlined by the IFA) regarding an annual reoccurring charge of €300 for septic tank inspections. Neither the Minister nor the Department have announced a figure on the cost of septic tank inspections.
The purpose of the legislation is to address a European Court of Justice ruling against Ireland from October 2009. Due to a lack of will from the previous administration, the legislation was not introduced, so this Government has not choice but to introduce it as quickly as possible to avoid fines.
The Bill will amend the Water Services Act 2007 and will;
§ require owners of premises served by septic tanks and other on-site waste water treatment systems to have their systems maintained and desludged.
§ establish a system for monitoring and inspecting septic tanks.
If we do not comply with the ECJ ruling in a timely manner Ireland could be fined by the Court this year – the level of the fines could be a lump-sum penalty of €2.7 million and continuing daily fines for continued non-compliance of more than €26,000 per day (equivalent to more than €9.5 million per annum).
Failure to comply with the ruling and the imposition of fines will result in damage to Ireland's environmental reputation. Research published last week highlighted the very positive green image of Ireland and our food and drink produce amongst German consumers.
There are roughly 440,000 septic tanks in Ireland. There will be a once off cost to householders as a result of the inspection but no amount has been announced yet. This will be a modest fee which will be a fraction of the figure that has been circulated by the IFA. There is no intention to have an annual reoccurring cost to householders imposed by local authorities for septic tank inspections.
The Government is committed to publishing proposals on this issue before the summer recess – this will set out the details of the inspection regime.
The legislation should be in place in the autumn and the system will begin to be rolled out next year.
PRESS RELEASE: Hogan expresses disappointment with the ECJ case ruling on septic tanks and other on-site wastewater treatment systems.
Mr. Phil Hogan T.D., Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, today (Thursday 20 May 2011) expressed his disappointment at the European Commission's announcement that it intended to seek the imposition of financial penalties by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in relation to their judgment on septic tanks and other on-site wastewater treatment systems despite the Government's swift action on the matter.
"Achieving compliance with the ECJ ruling is a high priority for my Department and for the Government. Due to a lack of political will from the previous administration since October 2009, the ECJ ruling found that Ireland had failed to make adequate legislation for dealing with domestic waste-water from septic tanks and other on-site wastewater treatment systems. This Government recently approved the urgent drafting and publication of the necessary legislation. My aim is to have the legislation considered and enacted by the Oireachtas without delay.
"The Court ruling requires the introduction of new legislation setting performance standards for existing septic tanks and other on-site wastewater treatment systems and the introduction of an inspection and monitoring system for such systems.
"I am, naturally, very disappointed that the Commission has decided to escalate the case at this time, particularly given the speed with which the new Government has acted on this matter. Considerable work has been undertaken by my Department since the judgment in developing the response. Last year, extensive stakeholder consultations were undertaken and more than 50 submissions were received by my Department. Following this, legislative proposals and a Regulatory Impact Analysis were prepared and these were considered and approved by the Government last week. Work is also at an advanced stage on the inspection criteria which will be at the centre of the new system – these have been developed with the close co-operation of the Environmental Protection Agency and the local authorities.
"My Department has also been in on-going contact with the Commission in order to develop an appropriate response to the ruling and I am confident that any concerns the Commission has in this case will be addressed quickly and comprehensively in the proposals that are being brought forward."