Water Services (Amendment) Bill 2011: Second Stage (Resumed)

Question again proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

A number of matters have been raised in the course of the debate which I will address now.

First, the Department has examined in detail the regulatory systems that are in place in other jurisdictions. 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, this legislation must ensure compliance with the court ruling which requires the establishment of a system of inspection.

The most extreme.

Northern Ireland and Scotland have been mentioned as having regulatory systems which could be replicated here, and people have suggested that there is no charge. In Northern Ireland, regardless of when a septic tank was constructed or installed, discharge consent under the Water (Northern Ireland) Order 1999 is required and with effect from 1 April 2011, the application fee increased from £110 to £115. The assertion that there is no charge is not true.

It is more focused; it is not a catch-all.

Free desludging, that is where the issue is.

I have waited a long time to say these few words and I listened to Senator Ó Domhnaill.

The Minister to continue, without interruption.

What I am saying does not suit Senator Ó Domhnaill.

The Minister did not want to hear what I had to say.

In Scotland, from 1 April 2006, registration of septic tanks with the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency is required, and registration fees are as follows: £77 for on-line applications; and £104 for application using a hard copy application form. The notion that there are no fees in other jurisdictions mentioned here today is not correct.

On registration fees here, a number of Senators suggested that the appeal fee of €200 is too high, and I have accepted that. In the course of my address, I indicated I would change that and the figure I have in mind is €20, rather than €200.

The scope of the appeal is too narrow.

On planning, the scope of the Bill must deal with the fact that the European Court of Justice is in the process of fining us €26,000 a day——

It is very narrow.

——arising from the inaction of my predecessors, the Government of Senator Walsh's party.

It is far too narrow.

On inspection and the condition of planning that apply, I am introducing a system of planning exemption for the work to be carried out in this regard. I am glad of the opportunity to allay fears about this matter.

Our pressure is working.

(Interruptions).

There are no grants. The Government is yielding to the pressure.

I do not know of any situation where grants have been included in legislation. Perhaps Senator Byrne would point me in that direction.

We will consider a grant scheme once the inspection period in 2013 is over and where we see the extent of the work that has to be done in remediation for the one-in-five households that will be inspected on the basis of this risk-based approach.

On any of the scaremongering that we have heard about all of the various charges and the amount of money that it will cost, it costs €2,000 to put in a septic tank and I do not know from where Senator Ó Domhnaill gets €17,000.

What about the land costs?

If Senator Ó Domhnaill supplies me with all of those cases that will cost €17,000, I will have them investigated immediately because if they require that amount of work to be done, they are damaging groundwater under the Water Services Act 2007 brought in by the Government of his party.

What if one does not own land to put in a percolation system?

The existing systems must be proven to work. That is all that is expected under this scheme.

They do not even comply with the criteria set down in the legislation.

On fines——

They do not meet the criteria.

——and the so-called criminalisation——

We want to see the draft regulations.

——under the 2007 Water Services Act there is already an offence of causing pollution with a fine of €15 million and up to five years in prison.

Who brought that in?

The penalty I am proposing is €5,000. It is much different. In addition, it has been mentioned that there is no support being given for rural areas. Under the rural water programme, a substantial amount of taxpayers' money has been put into upgrading group water schemes and schemes in rural areas. In fact, my predecessors in Government have invested €500 million and I want to acknowledge that. It was a significant success.

The rural water programme has demonstrated, in the EPA samples carried out, massive improvements in the quality of water in rural areas. I have money allocated to that programme in 2012 and I will look at how we can deploy that money in order to help people overcome any difficulties in group water schemes or group sewerage schemes in rural areas. I will seek how we can target resources to help those who need it most.

The grant scheme can only be looked at in the context of the budget of 2014 because in 2013, we will know the extent of the problem arising from the one-in-five inspections carried out. Senator Walsh would not expect me to bring in a grant scheme for something that has not yet happened.

Is the Minister making a commitment that there will be one?

No. The Minister for Finance must agree this. I would like to provide a grant scheme for many matters, but we are in an EU-IMF programme.

That has nothing to do with this Bill.

Mr. Ajai Chopra has everything to do with many matters.

With this Bill, nothing.

Senator O'Brien is giving a solution.

I am glad of the opportunity to allay the fears of many people and also to allay the fears of those who spoke during the summer months of a €300 annual charge. I am glad that was not mentioned during the course of this Bill because it no longer applies.

The Minister did not deal with the greater Dublin drainage scheme which needs €2.3 billion.

Question put.
The Seanad divided by electronic means.

Under Standing Order 62(3)(b), I request that the division be taken again otherwise than by electronic means.

Question again put.
The Seanad divided: Tá, 27; Níl, 11.

  • Bacik, Ivana.
  • Bradford, Paul.
  • Brennan, Terry.
  • Burke, Colm.
  • Coghlan, Paul.
  • Comiskey, Michael.
  • Conway, Martin.
  • Crown, John.
  • Cummins, Maurice.
  • D’Arcy, Jim.
  • D’Arcy, Michael.
  • Harte, Jimmy.
  • Healy Eames, Fidelma.
  • Heffernan, James.
  • Henry, Imelda.
  • Keane, Cáit.
  • Kelly, John.
  • Moloney, Marie.
  • Moran, Mary.
  • Mulcahy, Tony.
  • Mullen, Rónán.
  • Mullins, Michael.
  • Noone, Catherine.
  • O’Neill, Pat.
  • Sheahan, Tom.
  • van Turnhout, Jillian.
  • Whelan, John.

Níl

  • Byrne, Thomas.
  • Cullinane, David.
  • Leyden, Terry.
  • Mooney, Paschal.
  • Ó Clochartaigh, Trevor.
  • Ó Domhnaill, Brian.
  • Ó Murchú, Labhrás.
  • O’Brien, Darragh.
  • O’Donovan, Denis.
  • O’Sullivan, Ned.
  • Walsh, Jim.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Paul Coghlan and Mary Moran; Níl, Senators Paschal Mooney and Ned O’Sullivan.
Question declared carried.

When it is proposed to take Committee Stage?

Is that agreed?

Question put: "That Committee Stage be taken on Wednesday, 23 November 2011."
The Seanad divided by electronic means.

Under Standing Order 62(3)(b), I request that the division be taken again other than by electronic means.

Question again put: "That Committee Stage be taken on Wednesday, 23 November 2011."
The Seanad divided: Tá, 28; Níl, 12.

  • Bacik, Ivana.
  • Bradford, Paul.
  • Brennan, Terry.
  • Burke, Colm.
  • Coghlan, Paul.
  • Comiskey, Michael.
  • Conway, Martin.
  • Cummins, Maurice.
  • D’Arcy, Jim.
  • D’Arcy, Michael.
  • Harte, Jimmy.
  • Hayden, Aideen.
  • Healy Eames, Fidelma.
  • Heffernan, James.
  • Henry, Imelda.
  • Keane, Cáit.
  • Kelly, John.
  • Moloney, Marie.
  • Moran, Mary.
  • Mulcahy, Tony.
  • Mullen, Rónán.
  • Mullins, Michael.
  • Noone, Catherine.
  • O’Neill, Pat.
  • Quinn, Feargal.
  • Sheahan, Tom.
  • van Turnhout, Jillian.
  • Whelan, John.

Níl

  • Byrne, Thomas.
  • Cullinane, David.
  • Leyden, Terry.
  • Mooney, Paschal.
  • Ó Clochartaigh, Trevor.
  • Ó Domhnaill, Brian.
  • Ó Murchú, Labhrás.
  • O’Brien, Darragh.
  • O’Donovan, Denis.
  • O’Sullivan, Ned.
  • Walsh, Jim.
  • Wilson, Diarmuid.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Paul Coghlan and Mary Moran; Níl, Senators Paschal Mooney and Ned O’Sullivan.
Question declared carried.
Committee Stage ordered for Wednesday, 23 November 2011.
Sitting suspended at 3.55 p.m. and resumed at 4 p.m.