the clock is ticking for owners of septic tanks to register their systems, including those waiting for connection to a public sewerage scheme.
However, inspections will not take place until well into 2013, with systems near water supplies targeted first.
All owners of domestic waste water treatment systems are now legally required to register, since last Tuesday, June 26. A reduced €5 fee is being offered to entice registration before September 28, after which a €50 fee will apply. The final deadline is February 1 2013.
A spokesperson for Laois County Council’s Environment section, who are accepting registrations at their cash office, says failure to register is committing an offence.
“People have a legal requirement to register. If they don’t by February 1, they are in breach of the act and committing an offence. The council will be responsible for pursuing non-compliant cases, with a maximum penalty of €5,000,” he said.
Owners will have to renew their registration every five years, free of charge. However if a system fails to pass EPA standards, the owner will have to pay a private operator to bring it up to scratch.
Chairman of Laois IFA Pat Hennessy is calling for grant assistance if upgrading is required.
“If it’s the law to register then we have to register. People put in their systems to the best of standards and specifications back in the seventies, if there is a requirement that they have to upgrade to a new standard now then grant assistance should be provided,” he said.
The scheme was introduced by the Water Services (Amendment act 2012, to ensure that water, particularly drinking water, is protected from pollution by malfunctioning septic tank systems. Not every system will be inspected, but those close to rivers are considered high risk.
“Ensuring public health is the priority. There won’t be inspections carried out on everyone initially. It will be a visual inspection primarily, to see if there is evidence, for example sewage ponding on the ground. The council will not impose expensive solutions if it’s not necessary,” he said.
Signs of a system not working include foul odours, an excessive amount of vegetation growing in the percolation area, soggy ground, and drains or toilets running slowly or overflowing.
Homeowners due for inspection will get a letter from Laois County Council, who are warning against bogus inspectors.
“People should take care not to allow uninvited persons, or persons claiming to be inspectors, to enter onto their property in advance of the launch of inspections. Inspectors will be required to carry identification and you should ask for this to be presented to you,” they say.
Registration can be done online at www.protectourwater.ie, or at Laois County Council’s cash office. Postal applications are also available at the cash office, in public libraries and the Citizens Information Centre.