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Septic Tanks

What The New Waste-Water Legislation Means For You

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Executive Summary

Executive Summary

This publication is designed as an easy-to-use guide to the new Wastewater (septic tank) legislation. Inspections are due to commence in Summer 2013 and complying may be complicated and expensive. Thus far there has been much commentary about the legis- lation but very little information on the practicalities of complying. This report aims to rec- tify this by examining the law, its implementation and what it means in practical terms for homeowners.

Author:

Design and Layout:

Cover Page Photograph:

Tadhg Casey 2013

Tadhg Casey

Caroline Kennedy Photography

All Diagrams and Sketches by Author unless otherwise stated.

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CONTENTS

1.0

GLOSSARY OF TERMS

3

2.0

INTRODUCTION

5

3.0

BACKGROUND TO THE LEGISLATION

6

4.0

IS IT POSSIBLE TO COMPLY?

 

4.1

Site Size

7

4.2

System not on your site

9

4.3

Site Suitability Assessment

10

5.0

IF I CAN COMPLY AT WHAT COST

 

5.1

Case Study 1

11

5.2

Case Study 2

13

5.3

Case Study 3

15

5.4

Case Study 4

17

6.0

THE HYPOCRISY OF THE LAW

19

7.0

THE MYTH OF URBAN COMPLIANCE

21

8.0

CONCLUSION

23

APPENDIX A

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1.0

GLOSSARY OF TERMS

Domestic Waste-Water Treatment System (DWWTS)

A Domestic Waste-Water Treatment System (DWWTS for short) refers to all the components of a

system used to treat the sewage waste from a domestic household. For example, a septic tank and percolation area (and all associated parts) would collectively be referred to as a DWWTS.

Site Suitability Assessment (Sometimes referred to as a Site Characterisation Report)

All local authorities require that a Site Suitability Assessment be carried out in order to determine of the site in question is suitable for a domestic waste water treatment system and if so, to prescribe what particular system should be installed. Each local Authority has a list of Site Suitability Assessors from which the applicant must choose. A site Suitability test consists of several parts but there are three main parts; A site assessment, a percolation test and (if the site is suitable) a recommenda- tion of a particular treatment system.

Site Assessment

A site assessment is a full soil and geological survey and deals with the characterisation of the

ground conditions of the site and then the selection of an appropriate wastewater treatment system. The objective of site characterisation is

• To determine if the site can adequately treat the wastewater;

• To check that the treated wastewater can get away; and

• To check that the minimum site separation distance can be achieved.

Detail of how to carry out site characterisation for a wastewater treatment system for single houses can be obtained from the EPA manual (2009).

Percolation Test

A percolation test is a method of assessing the ability of the subsoil to allow water to percolate to

the water table (i.e

and the time taken for the water to drop in minutes is recorded. It is recommended that a suitably

qualified person carry out percolation tests. Contact your local authority to obtain a list of qualified persons. For more information on these tests, see our Wastewater Treatment Manual for Single Houses, Appendix B. EPA CoP 2009

how water can pass through the soil). In the test a small hole is excavated

Septic Tank

A tank (usually concrete, fibreglass or composite plastic) typically underground in which sewage is collected and allowed to decompose through bacterial activity before draining off to be purified. Bio-units are essentially higher specification septic tanks.

Percolation Area

Often referred to as a polishing filter, a percolation area is an area of soil over which the treated wastewater from a septic tank or treatment system is distributed and discharged in to the ground. The principle is that as the wastewater passes through the soil from the percolation area, small particles are filtered out by the soil matrix and organics are digested by micro-organisms. There are three main types;

Raised Percolation Area

A Raised Percolation Area is simply a percolation area constructed above ground level and

covered with topsoil. Typically used where difficult site conditions are encountered. For example,

where bedrock is close to the surface, high water table or general poor percolation characteristics.

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1.0

GLOSSARY OF TERMS

Tertiary Systems Tertiary systems are used to treat wastewater to a very high standard prior to discharge to a sensitive area, water-course or site with poor percolation characteristics. Examples include peat filter systems, reed beds

Pressurised Percolation Area

A

Pressurised Percolation system distributes treated wastewater by discharging it through a system

of

small diameter pipes. These pipes are specially designed and drilled. The pipe network is laid on

a

bed of soil and stone, a geo-textile membrane is laid on top and it is all covered in topsoil.

Peat Filter Units

A Peat Filter system is a type of tertiary system. It is an extra filter process. The wastewater from the septic tank is discharged to the peat filter system where it makes its way through several feet of organic material where it undergoes natural filtration. Typically these units are pre-manufactured and come ready to install.

Grey Water

Grey water is wastewater generated from household activities such as washing clothes, dishwashing and bathing/showering.

Sludge

Sludge refers to the residual, semi-solid material left from the sewage treatment process. Typically at the bottom of the septic tank or treatment unit.

Effluent

Refers to liquid waste discharged from the septic tank or treatment unit.

Soak-pit

Also known as a soakaway or leach pit, a soakpit is a covered porous wall chamber that allows wastewater to soak in to the ground. It is typically a hole in the ground (approx 6 - 8 feet deep) full

of stones of varying sizes. As wastewater percolates through the soil from the soakpit the concept

is that small particles are filtered out by the soil matrix and organics are digested by micro- organisms.

EPA

The Environmental protection agency

EPA CoP 2009

The Environmental Agency Code of Practice 2009, the latest and most up to date source os re- quired standards relating to domestic waste water treatment systems. Available free to download from www.epa.ie

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2.0

INTRODUCTION

It is important to note that I, like all rural people, want the cleanest possible environment achieved with the highest quality practices. We are the custodians of the countryside for all the people and wildlife of Ireland, and it is crucial that Irelands’ water is in pristine condition. Part of this work to maintain our habitat is to examine any new law realting to it.

I have conducted a study of Household septic tanks in order

to compile this report which assesses the impact the new wastewater legislation will have on householders. Thus far there has been much commentary about the legislation but very little information on the practicalities of complying. This report aims to rectify this by examining the law, its implementation and what it means in practical terms for homeowners.

Methods of research used:

- Legal study of the new legislation

- Field work; by visiting and examining the situation on the

ground in order to form an accurate picture of what exists.

- Examining the moral aspect to this legislation and its implementation.

This study aims to accurately predict:

- Whether it will be possible for everyone to comply

- The implications for all different construction types and ages of septic tanks that exist in the county.

- The time and disruption associated with upgrading.

- The approximate cost of upgrading for all different situations.

approximate cost of upgrading for all different situations. 5 tadhgcasey.ie Author’s Background: Tadhg Casey is a

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Author’s Background:

Tadhg Casey is a native of Ballyheigue, Co. Kerry, He is a graduate of Architecture (Waterford Institute of Technology 2007-2012) and Architectural Technology (Cork Institute of Technology 2004-2007). He also possesses substantial experience of working in the farming sector as well as in the construction sector as a steel fabricator and labourer. He currently work as an Architect in Cork City.

Author’s note:

This research is at my own cost and expense and is a service for the people of Kerry. I approach this as a rural dweller. I am passionate about our environment and water and believe that we should do everything in our power to protect it.

3.0

BACKGROUND TO THE LEGISLATION

In 2012 Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan TD introduced The Water Services (Amendment) Act 2012. The purpose of this legislation was to make Ireland compliant with EU Directive 2008/98/EC.

The implications of the legislation are as follows:

- A registration drive was begun that aims to register all DWWTS in the country.

- An inspection plan of Domestic waste water treatment

systems (DWWTS) (septic tanks would be the most widespread form of DWWTS). This inspection plan is to ensure that in the Governments opinion, all DWWTS are compliant with the EU Directive.

- A grants system for systems that on inspection, were found to be in need of an upgrade.

The criteria which a Septic tank system would have to meet in order to comply with the new law were laid out in regualtions issued by Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan in June 2012. These regulations can be found in Appendix (a) of this report.

The regulations try to be clear in order to illustrate what it takes for a system to pass. However, if a system fails the inspection the regulations do not state what works a homeowner would have to do in order to upgrade and comply. For example if the home owner needed to install a new septic tank what type/size should it be?

When I put this question to the Department of the Environment they responded that this was a decision for the Local Authority in question. So I posed the question to all Local Authorities in the Country.

From the responses I received, it is clear that, in the absence of any instruction form the Minister or the Department of the Environment to the contrary, Local Authorities plan on applying the most up to date standard available (the EPA Code of Practice 2009 epa.ie) to all upgrades carried out on existing dwellings.

The consequences of this are clear - all existing dwellings if inspected and failed will be made to comply with the most modern standard available.

Sections 2 and 3 outline the significant consequences of this for homeowners.

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4.0

IS IT POSSIBLE TO COMPLY?

Site size

The fundamental challenge posed by applying the EPA Code of Practice (CoP) 2009 to existing houses is whether or not the site can comply with minimum distances requirement. Table 1 is from the EPA CoP 2009 and shows the minimum distances a site must achieve in order to comply. This criteria will be impossible for some sites to comply with due to the fact that the site may be near a waterway, lake or other natural feature. From fieldwork I have carried out, it is clear to me that there are a huge number of these sites in Kerry.

As it stands houses like these cannot comply. The Minister and the Department need to change this immediately.

Table 1
Table 1

Survey

1978 Bungalow

Built according to the planning guidelines at the time, this house would now have to upgrade if inspected. This is because there is a soakpit instead of a percola- tion area. This will improve water quality. However the septic tank (which is working perfectly) is too close to the boundary under EPA CoP 09. Since moving it is not a possibility, the homeowner will incur a huge cost to install a new septic tank which meets the requirements.

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4.0

IS IT POSSIBLE TO COMPLY?

4 . 0 IS IT POSSIBLE TO COMPLY? FIG.1 From the EPA’s CoP 2009 and illustrates

FIG.1 From the EPA’s CoP 2009 and illustrates the distances that sites with DWWTS have to comply with.

Survey

1990 House adjacent to coastline

Built according to the planning guidelines at the time, this house would now have to upgrade if inspected. However the distance to the sea cliff would not meet the EPA 2009 CoP. What standard is then applied? The owners of this house are currently in the dark as to what standard to upgrade their system to.

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4.0

IS IT POSSIBLE TO COMPLY?

System is not on your site

When carrying out my survey of septic tanks systems in Kerry, a problem I encountered on several occasions, (and heard of many more) is that of systems located on neighbours land. There was a mixture of circumstances ranging from amicable circumstances right down to and including neighbours not talking to each other and severe difficulty with access.

An examination of the legislation and of the Minister’s regulations finds only one instance where this situation is alluded to, and all the Minister states is that people will not have to purchase extra land to comply with the regulations. This leaves a number of important questions unanswered:

- Access for Inspection: The EPA is aiming to give

householders 7 days notice of inspection, if they do not give the neighbour whose land the system is on notice is the notice void?

- If the Local Authority direct that upgrade is necessary,

what rights does the landowner have to resist? (For example there may be a crop in the field)

- What knock-on effect does this have for the homeowner?

- If the landowner is unwilling to sell the land or allow up- grading works what choices does the homeowner have?

is unwilling to sell the land or allow up- grading works what choices does the homeowner

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FIG. 2

4.0

IS IT POSSIBLE TO COMPLY?

4 . 0 IS IT POSSIBLE TO COMPLY? FIG. 3 FIG. 4 Figs 3,4 & 5:

FIG. 3

4 . 0 IS IT POSSIBLE TO COMPLY? FIG. 3 FIG. 4 Figs 3,4 & 5:

FIG. 4

4 . 0 IS IT POSSIBLE TO COMPLY? FIG. 3 FIG. 4 Figs 3,4 & 5:

Figs 3,4 & 5:

FIG. 5

Different examples of bedrock close to surface

Site Suitability Assessment (See Glossary of Terms)

If upon inspection you are ordered to upgrade your system,

a site suitability test will have to be carried out by a trained

professional in order to assess:

(a)

Is the site suitable for a DWWTS?

(b)

If so what system is best suited to the site?

If we take question (a): The important point here is that a

site may be deemed unsuitable. The most likely causes for

a site being deemed unsuitable are the following:

- Impermeable soil

- Impermeable bedrock close to the surface

- Soil drains too quickly

Impermeable soil:

This is where the soil would not allow effluent to drain away fast enough, if at all. The poor drainage could be caused by the soil or else a very high water table. In severe cases the soil will not allow any drainage, ruling out the possibility of a raised percolation area. What option will the householder have then?

Impermeable Bedrock close to the surface

Again, this is where the effluent is not allowed to drain away and ponding will occur as a result. In severe cases the rock will not allow any drainage, ruling out the possibility of a raised percolation area. Again, what option is left to the owner of an existing dwelling in these conditions?

Soils and bedrock that drain too quickly

This is a problem because a soil that drains too quickly allows effluent to pass to groundwater without being adequately treated.

If the Site Suitability Test concludes that the site (with an

existing house on it) is unsuitable for a Treatment system what options are then open to the householder? The options are limited. A contained tank that has to be emptied every few weeks (prohibitively expensive) is one. There are no others that I am aware of. The law should take account of the fact that there are many existing houses built all over Kerry (and indeed all over the country) on poor draining soils. Under current guidelines and rules there is no solution possible. However there is a fine of €5000 for noncompliance. To not consider this situation when writing the legislation is incompetent and reckless on the Ministers behalf.

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5.0

IF I CAN COMPLY AT WHAT COST?

These following case studies are based on the households being ordered to upgrade and passing a Site Suitability Test.

All figures here are an estimate and may not reflect the cost to your particular home. Through consultation with contractors and suppliers, all effort has been made to try and make these figures as realistic as possible. All illustrations use one percolation area for diagrammatic purposes. This represents whatever percolation area or polishing filter is specified. See glossary of terms for different types.

It should also be noted that as is evident with other grant schemes, prices will increase greatly with ‘grant inflation’. This is because all the contractors know the householder can avail of a grant and they all increase their fees, making the grant less effective at easing the burden on the householder.

5.1

Case Study 1 House built around the year 1900 with no septic tank, a soakpit and grey water discharging to open drain. FIG. 6 illustrates the existing situation.

Conclusion of Site suitability test Septic tank and soil percolation area to be installed to EPA CoP 2009.

This is a house with no septic tank. Mattie Mcgrath T.D. has stated that there are 80 houses in South Tipperary with no septic tank. I am aware of two in Kerry but my educated guess is that more do exist. Census 2006 proves this, in 2006 there were 229 occupied dwellings declared as having no sewage system. A further 1370 dwellings refused to declare whether they had or not. These systems are obviously causing pollution and need to be upgraded. As more recent houses (1970s onwards) had to specify their system as a condition of planning, the houses with no systems would definitely be older, and most likely would now have elderly inhabitants. These systems are polluting and need upgrading, so what is the impact on the householder?

If for this example we take it that the site suitability test concludes that the soil is suitable for a septic tank system with in regular percolation area (This would be the best case scenario), the approximate costs would be:

Best Case Scenario Installation of conventional Septic tank and percolation area including all ancillary works approximately €7000 -

€9000.

Worst Case Scenario Installation of Septic tank, tertiary treatment system and percolation area including all ancillary works approximately €9000 - €12000.

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5.0

IF I CAN COMPLY AT WHAT COST?

FIG. 6

Existing

FIG. 7

Best-Case

Scenario

FIG. 8

Worst-Case

Scenario

0 IF I CAN COMPLY AT WHAT COST? FIG. 6 Existing FIG. 7 Best-Case Scenario FIG.
0 IF I CAN COMPLY AT WHAT COST? FIG. 6 Existing FIG. 7 Best-Case Scenario FIG.
0 IF I CAN COMPLY AT WHAT COST? FIG. 6 Existing FIG. 7 Best-Case Scenario FIG.

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5.0

IF I CAN COMPLY AT WHAT COST?

It should be noted that all figures here are an estimate and may not reflect the cost to your particular home. Through consultation with contractors and suppliers, all effort has been made to try and make these figures as realistic as pos- sible.

5.2

Case Study 2

House built in the year 1900 with a septic tank system in- stalled in the late 1950s/early 1960s.

In common with Case Study 1, this house would have had an indoor toilet first installed in the 50s or 60s. The system used in this case would have been a concrete block or poured concrete one chamber septic tank with effluent being discharged in to a soak pit. A soakpit is a hole full of stones usually 6 - 8 feet deep. The toilet would be the only appliance emptying to the septic tank. All water from baths and washing machines would go directly in to the soakpit or else an open drain.

In some cases the septic tank may be deemed suitable to continue using. The upgrade would consist of rerouting the grey water and building the percolation area specified in the site suitability test. FIG. 8 illustrates existing and FIG. 9 the upgrade.

Cost:

Best Case Scenario Installation of percolation area. Approximately €2000 -

€4000.

Worst Case Scenario New system including septic tank, tertiary system and per- colation area. Approximately €9000 - €12000.

Survey

1890 Cottage

It’s elderly occupant passed away 3 years ago and it then passed in to the ownership of a family member. It has been vacant since and is now due for an upgrade even though no one is living in it. The upgrade consists of installing an entire new system ranging in cost from €7000 - €11000. Take in to account the maximum grant this leaves the property owner with a bill of between €3000 - €7000.

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5.0

IF I CAN COMPLY AT WHAT COST?

5 . 0 IF I CAN COMPLY AT WHAT COST? FIG. 9 Existing FIG. 10 Best-Case

FIG. 9

Existing

5 . 0 IF I CAN COMPLY AT WHAT COST? FIG. 9 Existing FIG. 10 Best-Case

FIG. 10

Best-Case Scenario Upgrade

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5.0

IF I CAN COMPLY AT WHAT COST?

It should be noted that all figures here are an estimate and may not reflect the cost to your particular home. Through consultation with contractors and suppliers, all effort has been made to try and make these figures as realistic as pos- sible.

5.3

Case Study 3

House built in the year 1981 with a system consisting of a septic tank and soak pit. Grey water entering septic tank.

This system would have been the norm at this time. If now in- spected the minimum the householder will have to build is a percolation area. Again, this may be typical, above ground polishing filter or bio-tanks and percolation area.

Cost:

Best Case Scenario Installation of percolation area. Approximately €2000 -

€4000.

Worst Case Scenario New system including septic tank, tertiary system and per- colation area. Approximately €9000 - €12000.

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Survey

1980s Bungalow near a lake

Built in 1983 this house is located 80m from a lake shore. If it now needs to install a percola- tion area what will the solution be given that County Kerry’s development plan states official policy is to:

“Prohibit all new percolation areas for on-site waste water treatment facilities within 200m of the shore of each lake.”

5.0

IF I CAN COMPLY AT WHAT COST?

5 . 0 IF I CAN COMPLY AT WHAT COST? FIG. 11 Existing FIG. 12 Best

FIG. 11

Existing

5 . 0 IF I CAN COMPLY AT WHAT COST? FIG. 11 Existing FIG. 12 Best

FIG. 12

Best Case Scenario Upgrade

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5.0

IF I CAN COMPLY AT WHAT COST?

It should be noted that all figures here are an estimate and may not reflect the cost to your particular home. Through consultation with contractors and suppliers, all effort has been made to try and make these figures as realistic as pos- sible.

5.4

Case Study 4

House built in the year 1990s/early 2000s with a septic tank and percolation area to 1992 Standard or EPA 2000 Code of Practice.

Whether built in the 1990s or the 2000s, this house would have been required to construct a percolation area as part of their DWWTS. Whether this system is now capable of meeting the needs of the household upon inspection is at the discretion of the inspectors. Going by the legislation and guidelines this house should pass if all signs are that the system is working properly. Like the previous case studies however, there is a danger that an over-zealous inspector could put the householder through a lot of unnecessary expense by recommending an upgrade of either the septic tank or the percolation area.

Cost:

Best Case Scenario No upgrade required - no cost.

Worst Case Scenario Installation of percolation area. Approximately €2000 -

€4000.

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Survey

1993 House

The percolation area was fully installed to the regulations at the time (1992 CoP). It will now fail the inspection due to ponding on the surface. This is pollution and obviously needs to be fixed. However with both adults in the house now being unemployed, and the upgrade costing more than the grant available, a young family is subjected to serious financial pressure.

5.0

IF I CAN COMPLY AT WHAT COST?

5 . 0 IF I CAN COMPLY AT WHAT COST? FIG. 13 Existing FIG. 14 Worst

FIG. 13

Existing

5 . 0 IF I CAN COMPLY AT WHAT COST? FIG. 13 Existing FIG. 14 Worst

FIG. 14

Worst Case Scenario Upgrade

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6.0

THE HYPOCRISY OF THE LAW

Firstly let us examine, who pays for rural sewage systems and the stages involved.

1. Upon building their house the first payment a rural

householder will make is the development charge to their local authority for ‘services’.

2. The next cost a rural dweller faces is to build their

own system in accordance with the regulations at that time.

3. Maintenance: the system owner then has to pay for

maintenance and de-sludging of their system, often annually. Costs for a typical emptying are approximately €100 with an additional charge of bringing it to your local

sewage treatment plant of approximately €100.

4. Pay taxes (income/VAT etc.) to subsidise urban

sewage systems.

Marian Harkin MEP states:

“In the last ten years there was up to €billion spent on waste- water services in Ireland, of which 100% was spent on urban wastewater services. Given that one third of our population is rural, this is a direct transfer of some €1 billion of rural tax- payers’ money to urban services” (The Irish Times Jan 18th

2012).

If we break down this €billion:

Median Irish population for these 10years was 4.25 million. One third of these are rural dwellers = 1.416million. That means that per capita rural dwellers, through general taxation contributed €2833 towards urban sewage schemes in the years 2002 – 2012. If we take a rural household of 5 people, this household has contributed €10,590 towards urban sewage schemes.

5. Household charge/Property Tax

The new property tax we are informed is to pay for services. If you take a typical rural house, there is no street lighting, no public transport, the household pays its own refuse charges, water and sewage system. Therefore this again has to be looked at as rural dwellers subsidising urban services.

6. Upgrading

If a rural dwelling is inspected and ordered to upgrade their system they will be liable for substantial costs, as outlined in Section 2. There is a grant available but in the majority of cases the householder will still be left with a bill for thousands of euro.

In all rural dwellers are paying up to 5 times for their sewage systems compared to urban dwellers who will only be liable to pay once – the property tax. This is absolutely unjust and inequitable.

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6.0

THE HYPOCRISY OF THE LAW

Creating confusion

The Minister Phil Hogan has stated that existing dwellings will not be forced to comply with the most up to date standard, namely the EPA’s Code of Practice 2009. However the Minister hasn’t stated what standard householders will have to comply with. Confused I set about trying to ascertain what standard will apply. It raises the question whether the confusion has been created on purpose?

Another concern I have is that with the Minister and the Department of the Environment pretending that the EPA 2009 Code of practice will not apply to existing houses, and Local Authorities planning to apply this very standard, the public are being deliberately misled. This will lead to a situation where people do not know where to turn for the correct information and for a definitive explanation of what will happen in their individual case. This is a disgrace.

The danger is that with no set standard, a householder will be made ‘jump through hoops’ or carry out extensive works without being told what standard they are having to comply with. They may be totally in the dark while simultaneously spending thousands of euro.

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7.0

THE MYTH OF URBAN COMPLIANCE

If one was to assess the cause of water pollution in Ireland simply by listening to National Media and Minister Phil Hogan, there would be only one conclusion - that septic tanks are the problem. An examination of the statistics proves otherwise.

A catalogue of noncompliance with the urban waste-water treatment regulations and a botched approach to the monitoring of effluent discharges from local authority-controlled waste-water treatment plants, sewers and drainage pipes are revealed in a report from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). This report is several years old but it is the most up-to-date comprehensive study available. It is also still very relevant as there has been no meaningful sewage scheme building since the financial crisis hit in 2008.

Urban Waste Water Discharges in Ireland for Population Equivalents Greater than 500 Persons (2006 - 2007) reviews the treatment of waste water at 482 villages, towns and cities and the quality of discharges from 370 secondary waste-water treatment plants.

Overloaded and inadequate

The report reveals overall that 112 urban centres are still without waste-water infrastructure or have inadequate infrastructure, and that 192 waste-water treatment plants - or 51% - are not meeting EU standards, either because they are not operating properly or are being overloaded.

The result of this, the report says, is that waste-water discharges are having a measurable environmental impact that translates to 13 ‘seriously polluted’ river sites and seven bathing water areas which ‘failed to meet EU mandatory limits in the reporting period 2006/2007’.

And despite recognising the fact that the €2.7billion spent between 2000 and 2007 to upgrade old waste-water treatment plants and build new infrastructure had significantly increased treatment capacity around the country, the report notes that the level of infrastructure has to be increased and deployed ‘at a faster rate’ if Ireland is to:

- meet the EU standards

- prevent the pollution of rivers, lakes, estuaries and bathing waters

- protect drinking water supplies

The report reveals that of the 158 locations requiring secondary treatment or higher by the December 2005 deadline set by the ‘Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive’, the level of treatment was not in place at 28 of

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7.0

THE MYTH OF URBAN COMPLIANCE

these at the end of the reporting period, 2006/2007.

As for the way local authorities manage their waste-water treatment plants, the report recommends a major overhaul both at an operational level and in the frequency of effluent monitoring:

Overall urban compliance with the EU Waste-water Directive was “only 41% for large secondary treatment plants and just 24% for small plants.”

In conclusion, this EPA report highlights an issue that goes unreported - that urban Ireland, when population is taken in to account, pollutes water more that rural houses with Septic tank systems.

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8.0

CONCLUSION

The legislation is muddled and inherently unfair.

The bill makes reference to an appeal to a district court but only if there has been a procedural illegality. This means that if an inspector makes a professional error in an assessment on either an inspection or re-inspection(or both) then there appears to be no recourse through either the EPA, LA or the District Court as this avenue is only open to ‘procedural illegality’. Furthermore, there is no transparency as to the funding model that underpins the legislation.

The Law also leaves many questions unanswered namely:

There is to be a re-inspection fee of €200. Is it a re-inspection if the council check that the work has been carried out? Or does a signed certificate/photos prove this?

How long will the grant system be in place?

What will the inspection rate be? (The inspection rate recently released to the press is a minimum and not a maximum).

How are the higher risk areas chosen? If poor soils etc. There are a lot of them is it just a lottery?

Will the inspectors only be made up of Local Authority staff or will private contractors be borough in ? There is a danger if private contractors are brought in it will lead to extra costs for the householder. This could be caused by the fact that the conditions on becoming an inspector are so onerous (€1500 Professional Indemnity Insurance, €1000 registration fee, €1500 - €200 to complete the inspector course,€2000-€2500 annually to renew registration) then without doubt these costs will be passed on to the house- holders who are being inspected.

In addition the €50 ‘Registration fee’ payable every 5 years is simply a greedy tax. People are expected to believe that it is not possible for the Local Authority to keep a list of septic tanks for over 5years.

And finally, an area totally ignored by the new legislation is Detergents and bleaches. There is no mention in current dis- course of these chemicals that are ubiquitously used in our households and the damage that they do to groundwater.

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8.0

CONCLUSION

Know Your Rights

Householders are compelled to allow the inspector on to their property but the inspectors/local authority must give 7days notice of an inspection. They do not have the power to enter your house.

Household charge is for ’services’ as is its replacement the property tax. People are being made pay on the double for their services.

The ultimate conclusion of this study is that the legislation is anti - rural. Rural dwellers are in effect paying for the urban sewage systems as well as their own. This is morally reprehensible and makes a mockery of true republican ideals where all citizens are to be treated equally in the eyes of the law. This legislation was enacted without in my opinion, the Department of the Environment having carried out any research as to the effect it would have on house- holders. It needs to be recognised for what it is - a poorly thought-out and grossly unfair proposition.

tadhgcasey.ie

24

APPENDIX A

Septic Tank Guidelines Will Protect Our Water, Our Environment and Our Jobs – Hogan

26/06/12

Phil Hogan T.D., Minister for the Environment, Community & Local Government today (26th June) announced the details of the performance standards for septic tanks at the Oireachtas Committee on Environment, Community and Local Government. Homeown- ers who have a septic tank or waste-water treatment system need to register their system by 1st February 2013. The registration fee is €5 until 28th September 2012 increasing to €50 after that date. The risk-based system of inspections will commence in 2013 and will be objective and evidence-based, i.e. unless there is evidence of endangerment of human health or the environment, the system in place should pass inspection.

Speaking at the Oireachtas Committee today Minister Hogan said: ‘There are two main reasons for the implementation of the registration and inspection regime for septic tanks. First and foremost the key objective is to enhance and protect public health and the envi- ronment which will, in turn, benefit rural dwellers in terms of a better quality of life and bet- ter quality water. Protecting our environment will also have positive economic benefits for the tourism, recreation, agricultural and food-producing sectors, all of which rely on clean water. Clean water is vital for attracting inward investment and to support water hungry sectors such as pharmaceuticals and ICT.’

“The second reason for the legislation is to ensure compliance with the European Court of Justice ruling against Ireland in October 2009 in relation to the treatment of waste waters from septic tanks and other on-site wastewater treatment systems, which the last Govern- ment failed to address.”

“I have ensured that this legislation has been deliberately framed to minimise the impact on householders. It is very simple, owners of septic tanks and on-site treatment systems must ensure that their systems do not cause a risk to human health or the environment. If a system is defective it is the owners, their families and their neighbours who will be at most immediate risk.”

The Regulations - Owners of domestic waste-water treatments systems need to:

1.

Know where their septic tank is located;

2.

Operate and maintain the system so it is fit for purpose and fully operational;

3.

The system can not pollute the environment by discharging/leaking waste anywhere it

is not suppose to ie. Into the ground or any water source ;

4. Roof water or surface water run-off can not enter a domestic waste water treatment

system;

5. The system should be de-sludged at intervals appropriate to the tank capacity and the

number of persons resident in the premises connected to it or as recommended by the system’s manufacturer.

There are three ways people can register their system:

1. Online at www.protectourwater.ie

2. By Post: Forms can be got in City/County Councils, libraries and Citizens Information

Centres or by calling LoCall1890-800 800 for information. Cheques made Payable: ‘Pro- tect Our Water’ and post to: Protect our Water, PO Box 12204, Dublin 7.

3. Local Authority Office ( there is no administration fee)

Ends.

APPENDIX A

STATUTORY INSTRUMENTS

WATER SERVICES ACTS 2007 AND 2012 (DOMESTIC WASTE WATER TREATMENT SYSTEMS ) REGULATIONS 2012

I, Phil Hogan, Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, in exercise

of the powers conferred on me by section 18 of the Water Services Act 2007 (No. 30 of

2007) and section 70L (1) of the Water Services (Amendment) Act 2012 (No. 2 of 2012), hereby make the following Regulations:

1.

Citation

(a) These Regulations may be cited as the Water Services Acts 2007 and 2012 (Domestic

Waste Water Treatment Systems) Regulations 2012.

(b) These Regulations come into operation on 26.6.2012

2.Operation and maintenance of domestic waste water treatment systems

(1) A domestic waste water treatment system shall be operated and maintained by its

owner so that domestic waste water or sewage effluent shall not emit, discharge, seep,

leak or otherwise escape from the system, or part thereof :

(a) other than from a place or part of the system where the system is designed or intend-

ed to discharge domestic waste water or sewage effluent, or

(b) into surface waters except where licensed under Section 4 of the Local Government

(Water Pollution) Act 1977, or

(c)

onto the surface of the ground.

(2)

Roof water or surface water run-off shall not enter a domestic waste water treatment

system.

(3) The owner of a domestic waste water treatment system shall be responsible for its

maintenance and renewal and shall ensure that its parts and components are fit for pur-

pose, operational where appropriate and kept in good order and repair so as to prevent

a

risk to human health or the environment.

3.

De-sludging

(1) A domestic waste water treatment system shall be de-sludged at intervals appropriate

to the tank capacity and the number of persons resident in the premises connected to it, and such intervals shall be :

(a)

at least once in every three years, or

(b)

when sludge and scum accumulations exceed 30% of the tank volume or are en-

croaching on the inlet and outlet baffle entrances, or

(c)

as recommended by the system’s manufacturer.

(2)

De-sludging shall be carried out by a contractor authorised under the Waste Manage-

ment (Collection Permit) Regulations 2007 (S.I. No. 820 of 2007) as amended by the Waste

APPENDIX A

Management (Collection Permit) (Amendment) Regulations 2008 (S.I. No. 87 of 2008) and contents disposed of in accordance with all relevant national legislative requirements or directions pertaining at the time. (3) An owner shall obtain evidence of de-sludging or a receipt from the authorised con- tractor each time their tank is de-sludged and such evidence or receipt shall be retained for a period of five years.

(4) Notwithstanding the provisions of paragraphs (2) and (3), the owner of a domestic waste water treatment system may carry out de-sludging of that system and use its con- tents in agriculture, subject to compliance with all relevant national legislative require- ments or directions pertaining at the time and in particular with the provisions of the Waste Management (Use of Sewage Sludge in Agriculture) Regulations 1998 (S.I. No 148 of 1998, the Waste Management (Use of Sewage Sludge in Agriculture) (Amendment) Regulations 2001 (S.I. No 267 of 2001) and the European Communities (Good Agricultural Practice for Protection of Waters) Regulations 2010 (S.I. No. 610 of 2010).

Press Office Tel: (01) 888 2638 (direct) (01) 888 2000 E-Mail: press-office@environ.ie Web site: www.environ.ie