This amendment relates to the advisory notice. We propose a change in the Act by a regulation. This notice will be a notification to water services authorities that a treatment system is causing or is likely to cause a risk to human health or to the environment. The authority must issue an advisory notice within 21 days. I assume the inspector would make a visit prior to the notice being issued. The advisory notice would set out in detail the considerations for the particular treatment system and whether it posed a threat to human health or to the environment. The notice will direct the owner to take the necessary remedial actions and will specify a timeframe for completion of those measures.
The Bill does not outline the timeframe. For example, in France in 2007 a similar system was introduced to register septic tanks but the timeframe permitted for owners was four or five years during which they were to bring their septic tanks up to standard. It may be unfair to make this comparison given that France is a more urbanised country and there are thousands of hectares of unoccupied land while our countryside is well populated.
We have an issue with the advisory notice and the timeframe. These should be discussed by the Oireachtas prior to the enactment of the Bill. It is wrong to criminalise people or to make non-compliance with the advisory notice an offence. There are many reasons for non-compliance. People will be unable to comply with the advisory notice if substantial works are required to upgrade septic tanks to the necessary standard. According to the Department's own financial breakdown accompanying the Bill, a septic tank would cost approximately €4,000 and more advanced work could increase the cost up to €17,000 when installation of the system is taken into consideration. How is it reasonable to expect someone to carry out such work without the assistance of a retrofitting grants scheme?
The advisory notice and the work agenda is set out along with a timeframe for the work to be completed and it is to be compulsory for local authorities to issue the notice within 21 days of a notification from the agency. This needs to be discussed further. Instead of signing the timeframe under regulation, the Minister should allow for a discussion in this House and more specific details about the advisory notice should be provided. We will press a further amendment to provide that non-compliance with an advisory notice should not constitute an offence under the Bill, given that many people are struggling financially and they will not be able to meet the rigid specifications under this legislation.