Thursday, 8 July 2010
Other Questions (Resumed)
Water and Sewerage Schemes
Only three minutes remain in Question Time. I suggest that the Minister spend a minute putting on the record some of his response to the next group of questions, after which I will allow brief comments from colleagues across the floor.
Question 11: To ask the Minister for the Environment; Heritage and Local Government the action that has been taken as a result of report by Joint Committee on Environment regarding environmental pollution and danger to drinking water caused domestic sewage from septic tanks other effluent treatment systems; if he will respond committee's call for effective standards, joined up regulation, guarantees performance durability systems provision credible certification including safe inspection policing; make statement matter. [30721/10]
Question 22: To ask the Minister for the Environment; Heritage and Local Government the steps he has taken to respond judgement of European Court Justice, that Ireland failed in its obligation under Directive 75/442/EEC relation waste waters discharged through septic tanks countryside; further view fact new programme for Government contained a commitment introduce scheme licensing and inspection wastewater treatment schemes; if will make statement on matter. [30739/10]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 11, 22 and 40 together.
Reports by the Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, have identified septic tanks and other on-site waste water treatment systems as a potential source of water pollution, particularly of ground water sources, which are an important source of drinking water for many people. This is particularly the case in areas with sensitive environments or high densities of on-site systems. The renewed programme for Government includes a commitment to introduce a scheme for the licensing and inspection of septic tanks and other on-site waste water treatment systems.
In October 2009, the European Court of Justice, ECJ, found that Ireland had failed to make adequate legislation for dealing with domestic waste water from septic tanks and other on-site waste water treatment systems. Ireland's defence in the proceedings sought recognition for a range of monitoring and inspection powers under the Public Health (Ireland) Act 1878, the Local Government (Water Pollution) Acts 1977 and 1990, the Building Control Acts 1990 to 2007, the Planning and Development Acts 2000 to 2006 and the Water Services Act 2007. However, the ECJ found that these provisions only partially implemented procedures to ensure the objectives of the waste directive. In order to comply with the ECJ ruling, legislation is required to give effect to a new inspection and monitoring system for septic tanks and other on-site waste water treatment systems.
What steps has the Minister taken to ensure the septic tank standards are raised to an acceptable level? In terms of local authorities and the several sewage treatment works engaged in to date, of which one in particular comes to mind, what steps has he taken to ensure the matter is attended to urgently? For example, the domestic water supply in a large lake in the west has suffered substantially from pollution originating in the municipal sewerage system.
The need for legislation has been long known. The group that appeared before our committee last year raised this issue. When does the Minister plan on introducing the legislation? What does he have to say about our committee's report last week on soil problems in some areas making it difficult for people to attain permission for one-off housing?
I want to let Deputy Durkan know that on the publication of the joint committee's report I wrote to the Chairman to note that its recommendations were both timely and welcome, and to assure the committee that its report was being carefully considered. I expect that the issues raised in the report will be addressed comprehensively in the proposals that I will be bringing forward to give effect to the commitment in the renewed programme for Government, and to ensure compliance with the court ruling. My Department is considering how this monitoring and inspection system should operate, and has been consulting extensively with the Environmental Protection Agency, the local authorities and other key stakeholders on the matter. It is also intended to undertake consultations with wider stakeholders on the matter and I intend bringing proposals to Government to address these matters later on this year.
The programme for Government agreed in June 2007 included a commitment to introduce a scheme of support for the replacement and upgrade of septic tanks older than 15 years. The feasibility for introducing such a scheme will remain under ongoing review by the Department in the light of the obvious budgetary constraints.