The Water Services (Amendment) Act 2012 provides for the introduction of a registration and inspection system for domestic wastewater treatment systems (DWWTSs), 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.
Registration of domestic wastewater treatment systems
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.
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
To Register your septic tanks and other types of treatment and disposal systems for domestic waste water go to Protect our Water.
National Inspection Plan 2013
The Water Services (Amendment) Act 2012 requires the EPA to produce a National Inspection Plan. The Plan outlines the approach to be taken with respect to inspections. The Plan sets out a two pronged approach, focusing on raising owner awareness and responsibility, and on the inspection process.
Public Awareness Campaign
The first strand of the Inspection Plan is a national public awareness campaign to promote best practice relating to the operation and maintenance of DWWTS's. The campaign will be rolled out by Water Services Authorities prior to the initiation of targeted risk based inspections.
This campaign will inform DWWTS owners of the role they can play to protect their health, that of their neighbours, and the environment. Owners will be made aware of the simple steps they can take to properly operate and maintain their system as well as raising awareness as to the health implications where a DWWTS isn't working properly. The campaign should ensure that those who are responsible for DWWTSs are provided with authoritative and accessible advice so that they can protect their health and that of their family, neighbours, and the environment.
Inspections of Septic Tanks
The second strand of the plan involves carrying out risk based inspections.
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 being carried out to make sure that DWWTSs do not pose a risk to human health or the environment. Owners of DWWTSs are obliged to properly operate and maintain their systems as required under the Water Services Act, 2007 and Water Services (Amendment) Act 2012.
Further information is available from the Department of Housing, Planning, Community & Local Government, the Environmental Protection Agency and on the Protect our Water website.