Council in the dark on septic tanks

The government have given local authorities “scant” information on the registration and examination of septic tanks, it was revealed at a council meeting last week.

The government have given local authorities “scant” information on the registration and examination of septic tanks, it was revealed at a council meeting last week.

John Gavin from the water section of Laois County Council admitted they had expected more information from the government.

“Information is very scant. We were expecting more detail. Similar to the Household Charge, we have no register,” he said.

A new law came into effect last June, making every owner of a domestic waste water system legally obliged to register it before the end of January 2013, after which they could face fines of up to €5,000. Laois County Council do not know how many systems there are in the county, but estimate it at 14,000.

Inspections will begin later in 2013, however it is still unknown who will conduct the inspections or exactly what they will entail.

“The EPA (Environment Protection Agency) will bring out a national inspection plan, they will target areas, but we are yet to see where. I imagine their priority will be to safeguard public health, so systems close to drinking water sources are likely to get inspected,” Mr Gavin said.

He said he believes the inspections will be mainly visual.

“The EPA will do the training, from what I hear. If we go in and find sewage ponding, or a stream nearby is polluted, there there is a problem and we will issue an advisory notice,” he said.

There is no grant system to help homeowners with the cost if their system is found to be defective, they will have to pay out of their own pockets, even if they are waiting to be connected to a public sewer.

“I agree there should be a grant scheme, unfortumately there is not. Homes on the edges of towns are still required to register. There is no penalty if they fail to comply with the notice. A lot of houses don’t have the half acre needed for percolation, particularly in Mountmellick. We will take a reasonable, practical approach to prevent pollution,” he said.

Registration forms are available in libraries and at county hall in Portlaoise. Registration is being offered for €5 until September 28, to encourage the public to join up, and €50 after that until the January 31 deadline. Renewal is needed after five years, at no further charge.