What’s this all about?

The European Commission is to ask the Court of Justice to impose fines on Ireland for failing to comply with directives relating to septic tanks. There are more than 450,000 septic tanks in Ireland and poorly designed models, or those badly maintained, are polluting groundwater and putting health at risk. This is a long-running dispute centres on the EU Waste Framework Directive, which attempts to ensure that waste is disposed of without endangering human health or harming the environment. In 2009, the European Court of Justice ruled that Ireland had failed to comply when it came to septic tanks. The Commission said ‘human health is put at risk because pathogens can enter drinking water’. If the Court supports the Commission, Ireland will be subject to a lump sum fine plus daily fines. The lump sum fine requested by the Commission is €2.7m plus a daily penalty €26,173. However, it is a matter for the court to decide on the amount.

The Water Services (Amendment) Bill 2012 has passed through all stages of the Oireachtas and was signed by the President on 2 February 2012. 


Key facts of Water Services Bill

  • €50 Registration fee, a one off valid for 5 years to be paid by the property owner, subsequent registrations are free of charge. A special price of €5 for people who register from April to June 2012, and this is to fund the inspections.
  • €20 for a re-inspection if the system fails
  • The Property Owner must have Certificate of Registration to sell the property
  • The Property Owner must notify a change of ownership.
  • If the Property Owner is not on site when an Inspector calls they have 10 days to produce the certificate of Registration before it becomes an offence.
  • €5000 fine for a private dwelling that is found polluting and refuses to remedy same.
  • €50000 fine for a Local Water Services authority found not complying or enforcing the Bill.