Septic-tank owners to pay €50 one-off fee
MORE than 400,000 people with septic tanks will have to pay a one-off fee of €50 next year.
The money will be used to pay local authority staff to inspect some 440,000 tanks across the country to make sure they are working properly and not polluting water.
After months of speculation that the charge could be as high as €300, the Government yesterday said a one-off fee of €50 would be levied on all households with a septic tank, and there would be no additional charges for inspections.
The inspection regime is being introduced because Ireland is under pressure to comply with a 2009 European Court of Justice ruling.
Unless drinking-water supplies are protected, daily fines of €26,000 can be imposed.
Environment Minister Phil Hogan said: "The new regulations will deal with that judgment. It's essential we comply with that judgment and we protect groundwater," he said.
"We've seen over the years, particularly in Galway with the cryptospordium outbreak, that there is potential for groundwater to be contaminated by septic tanks. We don't want people buying bottled water," he said
"This will be a once-off charge. The only plan I have is for a registration charge in 2012. We'll look in 2014 to see if there's need for a waiver for low-income families. I have no plans for an exemption at the moment but I'll announce that in the legislation. I'll have a look at that."
From 2013, inspectors from local authorities will inspect tanks to ensure they comply with rules and standards to be agreed between the Government and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
If a tank does not meet the standards, it will be the responsibility of its owner to carry out work on it and cover the costs.
Homeowners who refuse to allow inspectors onto their land, or who fail to carry out the upgrading works, face the prospect of prosecution. Details of fines and penalties have not yet been decided, and will be announced in October.
The inspection regime was welcomed by Chambers Ireland which said clean water was essential to attract businesses.
However, the Irish Farmers' Association said it was opposed to any new legislation that would impose additional costs on rural households.