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Septic Tank Registration Scheme

Dáil Éireann Debate, Tuesday - 18 September 2012

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Questions (47, 50, 76)

Micheál Martin

Question:

47. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for the Environment; Community and Local Government the number of septic tank owners that have signed up to the registration system; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39006/12]

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Martin Ferris

Question:

50. Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for the Environment; Community and Local Government the financial supports that will be put in place to assist households upgrading their septic tanks to meet the new standards. [39072/12]

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Charlie McConalogue

Question:

76. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for the Environment; Community and Local Government if he will outline the details of the septic tank registration information campaign he has undertaken; the money budgeted for the campaign; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39011/12]

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Oral answers (7 contributions) (Question to Environment)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 47, 50 and 76 together.

The Water Services (Amendment) Act 2012 provided for the establishment of a new system for the registration and inspection of septic tanks and other domestic waste water treatment systems. The 2012 Act augments the duty of care placed on the owners of on-site waste water treatment systems, under section 70 of the Water Services Act 2007, to ensure their systems do not endanger public health or the environment. The basic standard to be met by all on-site systems is they are operated and maintained correctly and do not endanger public health or the environment. Following a public consultation process earlier this year, I made regulations in June specifying standards for the operation and maintenance of treatment systems. The standards set out in the regulations are consistent with what owners should be doing as a matter of course to ensure their systems are working properly.

I also made separate regulations in June setting out the procedures for householders to register details of their treatment systems with their local authorities. The Local Government Management Agency, LGMA, has developed for the 34 county and city councils, on a shared service basis, an online registration facility and the agency is also tasked with managing a central bureau to process payments of the registration fee. There are just ten days remaining for people to avail of the reduced registration fee of €5 and thereafter, up to the end of February 2013, the fee will be €50 and I encourage householders to register as soon as possible. Application forms are available from local authority offices, public libraries and citizens’ information centres or the fee can be paid online at www.protectourwater.ie. I have asked the local authorities to distribute an information leaflet to all homes in un-sewered areas advising householders of how they can register, as well providing some practical advice on the operation and maintenance of septic tanks. In addition, the LGMA has placed advertisements with local newspapers and radio stations informing the public about the requirement to register and in particular about the reduced registration fee available until 28 September.

Revenue from the registration fee will be used to cover the costs of developing and maintaining the register and associated costs, including publicity and awareness measures.

Will the Minister penalise local authorities if he does not achieve the level of registration he expects or seeks in this regard as well? I note the Minister has been in possession of the Thornhill report since June and Members are waiting to find out when he will finish reading it before bringing it to the Government. Second, for how long has the Minister had to hand the recommendations in respect of the guidelines that might form a uniform guideline to be applicable nationwide in respect of standards for septic tanks? I presume the Minister has made no provision for funds that might be available for those who do not meet such guidelines for standards when he eventually publishes them.

The Minister should indicate the number of people who have registered as I have not heard an answer to date. In a similar question to the previous speaker, will the local authorities be penalised on a pro rata basis in this regard? I refer to the financial supports that will be available because people are taking a leap of faith in this regard. While they may not be happy to so do, some people are registering. However, as matters stand they have no certainty or clue as to what kind of financial support will be in place. I am thinking in particular of low-income households that cannot afford to carry out the upgrades that will be required as per the inspections.

The Minister to wind up.

The standards for septic tanks were agreed by the Oireachtas joint committee early last July and they are standard nationwide for each local authority. Consequently, they are well known by the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Environment, Culture and the Gaeltacht and I assume everyone is clear with regard to them. A total of 76,000 have registered to date with the Local Government Management Agency.

Will the Minister penalise local authorities?

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