I am sorry I was a few minutes late for the meeting. This has arisen quite recently and yesterday I attended a meeting of the executive and the full membership of Leitrim County Council. It relates to an EU directive which was an EPA guideline until 5 January 2010 but has now become a regulation. The T-values, which are a measurement of ground soakage for septic tanks, must be below 90. If this is followed through, 85% of the land in Leitrim will not qualify for a septic tank or a treatment system for a person who wants to build a house. According to the figures given by the county manager yesterday evening, 80% of planning permissions granted in the past five years would not have been granted if the guidelines were applied.
There are technical solutions to this and the EPA, through Trinity College, is trying to find one that is acceptable to everybody. That is fine but the EPA states it could be two years before a solution might be found. This is very unfair and I am sure it will affect other counties, including half of County Sligo. I suggest giving Leitrim County Council the opportunity to talk to the committee and inviting somebody from the EPA in order to see how we might resolve the problem. It will cause a lot of distress to many people if county councils cannot grant planning permission on 85% of their rural land for farmers and families who wish to continue to work on the land. They have been the only people getting planning permission in recent times but now they will be totally excluded from building a house on their own land. It is a retrograde step and the Oireachtas Joint Committee on the Environment, Heritage and Local Government should have some input into what is happening.