Just 10pc pay septic tank fee
THE Government is set for a repeat of the household charge fiasco with less than one in 10 homeowners registering their septic tanks despite a looming deadline.
Under-pressure Environment Minister Phil Hogan announced earlier this year that a reduced registration fee of €5 would be in place until the end of September.
But new figures show just 47,000 homeowners have registered their system despite the incentive -- and more than 420,000 have failed to do so.
From next Friday, the registration fee increases to €50, and all tanks must be registered by February 1 or homeowners face the prospect of fines of up to €5,000.
The Department of the Environment last night insisted that the numbers would improve, and that many households were waiting until the last minute to register.
"The Local Government Management Agency will be taking out local advertisements, and local authorities will be delivering leaflets to households as well," a spokesman said.
"This could be similar to the household charge in that people waiting until the last minute until they pay.
"While the numbers registered is low, we'd be optimistic we'd see a surge next week."
Hard-pressed rural homeowners forced Mr Hogan into the climbdown in the cost of registration last February, and the project has been fiercely opposed in many areas.
The inspection regime has been introduced after the European Court of Justice ruled that Ireland was not doing enough to protect drinking water sources.
But the Irish Independent has learned that the State faces the prospect of being fined up to €3.9m by the court next month for failing to comply with a 2009 judgment ordering it to protect drinking water sources.
The State will appear before the court on October 4, with sources saying a fine was expected for failing to comply with the judgment.
A national inspection plan is being finalised and is expected to be published at the end of this year.
Local authorities will begin carrying out inspections from next summer, particularly in areas where water sources are under threat of pollution from tanks.
The first tranche will involve a visual inspection to make sure the system is working properly. This includes asking the owner if it has been emptied, if it is watertight and checking to make sure rainwater is not entering the tank.
But despite a major publicity campaign, people are refusing to register.
New figures show that just 9pc of properties have registered their tanks, with rates as low as 1pc in Dublin City and as high as just 16pc in Wicklow and Waterford city.
There are 497,281 tanks across the country, and 46,858 have been registered online or in local authorities. Another 29,500 are being processed.
While some homeowners will have to upgrade their tanks, some financial assistance may be available from the Department of the Environment.
A spokesman said local authorities would have a "certain amount of information" about tanks in their locality from studying planning files and identifying areas where there was no public sewage system.
Registration can be completed online at www.protectourwater.ie by credit or debit card, by post, or at local authority offices.