Thursday, 29 January 2004

Questions (170)

Dan Boyle

Question:

170 Mr. Boyle asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if his Department encourages or discourages the use of septic tanks for household waste water treatment; and the number of households which continue to use this form of treatment. [2617/04]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government)

In issuing standards for on-site waste water treatment systems, the Department seeks to ensure the use of an appropriate system in each case, rather than the use of one method of waste water disposal over another. In a circular letter of 31 July 2003 on groundwater protection and the planning system, the Department also directed local authorities attention to the need for more information within development plans on the location and potential vulnerability of groundwater resources and for clear policies on how development in different areas will be approached based on the available information.

Local authorities were also requested to ensure that effective regimes for the proper assessment of site conditions as well as the design, installation and maintenance of on-site wastewater treatment and disposal facilities are put in place, as well as appropriate monitoring and enforcement mechanisms that ensure that those which carry out approved development meet their obligations to adhere to the terms of planning permissions.

The Department in its circular letter to each planning authority on 8 January 1992 issued the current standard for the use of septic tanks for household waste and water treatment as set out in recommendation SR6, 1991, which was drawn up by the National Standards Authority of Ireland.

The Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, has published a draft manual on treatment systems for single houses in 2000 which was designed to help planning authorities, builders and others to deal with the complexities of on-site systems, including packaged systems. I understand that the EPA is currently reviewing the draft manual in the light of comments received from interested parties. My intention is to call up the revised EPA manual, when available, in technical guidance document H — drainage and waste water disposal — on the national building regulations. I also understand that the National Standards Authority of Ireland, NSAI, intends, at that stage, to withdraw SR6, 1991 in favour of the revised manual.