On the 3rd of November 2011 the Government introduced the Water Services Amendment Bill 2011. This is to be enacted as a matter of priority in order to avoid fines from Europe for failure to implement the European Waste Directive.
The Bill provides that owners of a premises connected to a domestic waste water treatment system/septic tank would be required to register their system with the Water Services Authority in their area which for many readers would be Clare County Council. A registration fee of €50 shall be payable and owners would be required to re-register every five years. The register will be available for public inspection and failure to register will be an offence.
One of the most important aspects of the Bill is that homeowners would be required to bring their system up to a standard pursuant to an Advisory Notice where it is found to pose a risk to human health or the environment. The homeowner may appeal the Advisory Notice to the Water Services Authority for a fee of €200. The re-inspection fee is fully refundable if the Advisory Notice is cancelled as a result of the re-inspection.
It is hard to estimate the potential exposure of householders to costs arising out of the Advisory Notice but they could be significant. In cases where a system has been poorly designed or installed homeowners may seek to recover their costs from the builder/system installer or from the person who carried out the survey. One of the main arguments of those opposed to the registration system is that the registration fee will impact unfairly on rural households. However, there is a strong legal basis for charging households with septic tanks. While the registration charge will impact on only those households with individual waste water treatment systems, it appears likely that urban dwellers connected to the public waste water system will ultimately be required to pay for their share, once domestic water charges are introduced.
If you have any questions or comments in relation to the content of this article then please contact Joe Considine, Partner, Hassett Considine, Solicitors, 9 Carmody Street Business Park, Carmody Street, Ennis, Co. Clare.