The Minister for the Environment, Phil Hogan, published the Water Services (Amendment) Bill 2011 on 3 November 2011. The Bill was precipitated by a European Court of Justice Decision ruling against Ireland in respect of treatment of waste waters from septic tanks. As a result of this case, Ireland faces a potential lump sum fine of €2.6million, as well as daily fines of €26,000 for as long as non-compliance continues. Poorly managed septic tanks can pollute the environment, with harmful substances such as e-coli and other pathogens.
The Bill sets out certain duties applying to householders with septic tanks, who would be obliged to register and ensure that their septic tanks do not pose a risk to the environment. Water services authorities are to maintain the register of the septic tank holders. On the sale of premises connected to domestic septic tanks, the Bill envisages that a Certificate of Registration must be produced, and the new owner must then notify the appropriate water services authority of the change in ownership.
EPA appointed inspectors are to carry out a regime of inspections and notify the relevant water services authority if there are breaches of any Regulations issued under the Water Services Act 2007, or if the septic tank poses any risk to the environment.
Inspections may give rise to householders being advised to improve the maintenance of their systems, or indeed upgrade or remediate the treatment system. The registration fee is likely to be around €50, to be paid every 5 years. The revenue from this registration fee will fund the inspection regime.