This leaflet has been issued by the Department of the Environment, Community & Local Government.
The Water Services (Amendment) Act 2012 provides for the introduction of a registration and inspection system for domestic wastewater treatment systems, including septic tanks and similar systems. It was introduced to address the European Court of Justice ruling against Ireland in October 2009, and even more importantly, to protect ground and surface water quality (particularly drinking water sources) from the risks posed by malfunctioning systems.
Owners of domestic wastewater treatment systems are required to register their systems in accordance with the Domestic Waste Water Treatment Systems (Registration) Regulations 2012. Registration forms are available from local authority offices, public libraries and Citizen Information Centres. Households can also register and pay online.
The registration fee payable is €50. The fee is intended to cover the costs to the water services authorities of administering the registers and of managing the risk-based inspections to be carried out. The legislation provides that those liable to register must have done so on or before 1st February 2013. However, registration remains open and householders who have not yet registered should do so as soon as possible – there are no late payment fees. It is an offence under the 2012 Act for a householder not to register and the penalty, on conviction, is a fine of up to €5,000.
Inspections and Performance Standards
The new legislation has been framed to minimise the impact on householders and there will be no inspection charge. The basic standard to be met by all domestic wastewater treatment systems is that they do not cause a risk to human health or the environment. Regulations also provide for the proper operation and maintenance of treatment systems and set out de-sludging requirements
The EPA’s National Inspection Plan forms the basis for the inspection system. All areas of the country are liable to inspection, with priority being given to areas where water quality (particularly drinking water) is most at risk from pollution by on-site waste water treatment systems. The Plan contains details of risk criteria used and the minimum number of inspections (per county) to be carried out in its first year of implementation.
Inspections are aimed at identifying treatment systems which are a risk to public health or the environment. Irrespective of the age of type of system in place, if there is no evidence of risk to human health or the environment, no action will be necessary. There is no question of imposing modern standards on older systems. Nor is there any question of householders having to acquire additional land to facilitate remediation work. Where an on-site system fails an inspection, the remediation work required will be based on factors such as the nature of the problem, the extent of risk to public health or the environment, existing site size and the hydrological and geological conditions present. Planning permission is not required for works arising from an inspection.
Important Note : Owners of systems selected for inspection will be notified at least 10 working days in advance of an inspection being carried out. Inspections will be carried out by suitably qualified local authority personnel. Householders should not allow any person to enter their property to examine their treatment system unless they have received prior notification in writing from their local authority that their system is to be inspected. Any person claiming to be from a local authority should be asked for official identification.
Grants are available for the carrying out of remediation, repair or upgrading works to, or replacement of, a domestic waste water treatment system, where such remediation, repair, upgrading or replacement arises directly from an inspection and subsequent issue of an advisory notice under the Water Services (Amendment) Act 2012. The scheme’s key points include :
• The treatment system requiring remediation must have been registered by the owner of the premises connected to it by the prescribed date of 1 February 2013.
• It is not a universal scheme – the treatment system concerned must have been inspected under the 2012 legislation
• Households with income of up to €50,000 per annum will be eligible to apply for a grant of 80% of approved costs with a maximum grant payable of €4,000. Households with incomes between €50,001 and €75,000 will be eligible for a grant of 50% of approved costs with a maximum grant payable of €2,500.
• Grants will not be paid towards the costs of maintaining, servicing or de-sludging a domestic waste water treatment system as these are costs which owners should be incurring as a matter of course to ensure that their systems are functioning properly.
• Applicants for grant aid must submit supporting documentation including evidence of household income, itemised receipts for the work carried out and a copy of the contractor’s tax clearance certificate.