Tuesday, 21 February 2012
Department of Environment, Community and Local Government
Waters and Sewerage Schemes
Question 431: To ask the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government in view of the Environmental Protection Agency announcement which confirmed that out of the 529 State sewage treatment plants in urban areas, half of them failed to meet EU standards and were told that it will take another three years to bring them into compliance; if it is true that they will be brought into compliance in three years; does this not show, in a very comprehensive way, that he was wrong in pursuing rural dwellers in registering their septic tanks as the majority of pollution in Ireland is caused by the State's own sewage treatment plants; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10002/12]
Question 432: To ask the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the standards in place in municipal waste water treatment plants to protect water from pollution; the way that these standards are enforced; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9139/12]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 431 and 432 together.
The Waste Water Discharge (Authorisation) Regulations 2007 - 2010 provide for an authorisation system for all wastewater discharges to waters from treatment plants or collection systems owned or controlled by local authorities. The purpose of the authorisation system is to prevent and reduce pollution of waters by wastewater discharges. As part of the authorisation process, the EPA can place conditions on the operation of individual plants and systems and it can set emission limit values for the discharges.
The EPA published its report on Urban Waste Water Discharges in Ireland for 2008-2009 on 16 February 2012. While this indicates improvements in performance and compliance since the previous EPA report, the findings also indicate a need for further and more comprehensive improvement in operational performance. The report, in addition, highlights the need for continued investment in wastewater treatment infrastructure notwithstanding that investment under my Department's Water Services Investment Programme is making an impact with secondary treatment or higher now available for 93% of waste water discharges in agglomerations over 500, compared with 20% at the start of 2000.
The Water Services (Amendment) Act 2012, which provides for the registration and inspection of septic tanks and other on-site waste water treatment systems, addresses the legislative deficit highlighted by the European Court of Justice ruling against Ireland in October 2009. The new legislation forms a critical part of Ireland's attempts to avoid significant financial penalties for non-compliance with the Court's ruling and with the provisions of the EU Waste Directive. The EPA has previously reported that domestic wastewater treatment systems pose a risk to water quality, particularly to ground water, which is a source of drinking water for many rural people.