I propose to take Questions Nos. 6, 8, 15, 28, 38, 44 and 113 together.
I refer to the reply to Priority Questions Nos. 1 and 2 on today's Order Paper. On 29 October 2009, the European Court of Justice ruled against Ireland in relation to the treatment of waste waters from septic tanks and other on-site wastewater treatment systems. The court found that by failing to adopt the necessary legislation to comply with Articles 4 and 8 of the 1975 Waste Directive as regards domestic waste waters disposed of in the countryside through septic tanks and other individual wastewater treatment systems, Ireland had failed to fulfil its obligations under that directive.
I have been in discussions with the Attorney General about this matter with a view to bringing forward legislation in the near future. The Department has examined in detail the regulatory systems in place in other jurisdictions, both in the EU and internationally. There is no single consistent approach to regulating the use of on-site treatment systems, although monitoring and inspection are common features in many of the countries reviewed. Notwithstanding the approach being taken in other countries, the legislation being drafted must ensure that we have compliance with the court ruling, which requires the establishment of a system of inspection.
The new legislation is being framed to minimise the impact on householders. Householders can be assured that if their systems are working properly and are being maintained they need not be concerned. Householders will be required to register details of their on-site systems on a national register. In response to a previous question, I indicated that it will be a risk-based approach rather than a universal system.
I do not accept that the proposed legislation will discriminate against rural dwellers. Where the new inspection system gives rise to any costs, including for additional individual householders, every effort will be made to keep those to a minimum. The key objective of the new legislation will be 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.
It is important also to appreciate the implications of failing to comply with the European Court of Justice ruling. In July 2011, the European Commission applied to the court to have fines imposed on Ireland. Such fines could involve a lump-sum penalty of €2.7 million and daily fines for continued non-compliance of more than €26,000 per day equivalent to more than €9.5 million per annum.
My Department has undertaken extensive consultations for purposes of the draft legislation, which is being prepared with the intention of minimising the resource implications for public authorities and for owners of on-site waste water treatment systems.