Taoiseach defends septic tank plan

Tue, Feb 7, 2012, 00:00

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has defended as “common sense” the Government’s controversial septic tank registration plans.

But he refused to be drawn on calls for a grant-aid programme for financially struggling countryside householders who cannot afford upgrades or replacements.

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams said, despite reduced fees announced yesterday, hundreds of thousands of rural dwellers still face the prospect of punitive bills to bring their septic tanks up to standard.

“Billions have been spent on upgrading and providing a modern sewerage system in urban areas,” he said.

“Rural households helped to pay for this through taxes yet they are being forced by your government to bear the burden of the cost of improvements, upgrades and replacements. ”

Mr Adams said rural households would be criminalised under the proposals and called for a full grant aid scheme.

But Mr Kenny said Ireland needed to meet water quality standards after a ruling against the country by the European Court of Justice in 2009.

The Taoiseach described as “hysterical” and “startling” comments and headlines about the issue in recent weeks.

“This is part of a common sense approach towards having clean water, to have safe water, having septic tanks that do what they are supposed to do,” he told the Dáil.

Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan announced yesterday that householders may register their septic tanks from March until the end of June for a reduced fee of €5, rather than the full fee of €50.

Speaking today, he said there will be financial assistance for people to fix septic tanks “if it is required” but that he will not know whether this will be the case until inspections of the tanks start next year.

The Campaign Against Household and Water Taxes said the Government’s move yesterday was a “desperate attempt” to stem opposition to new charges being imposed.

The Minister said, however, the decision to reduce the charge followed consultation between his official and the European Commission in recent months.

He said they had reached the conclusion that the solution to any individual household that had a problem with a septic tank was “much more benign” than had been expected.

All that would be required would be that the existing tank be dealt with on site. If there was a problem arising from the inspection, one solution was to desludge or clean out the tank.

Mr Hogan dismissed what he called “misinformation” that had been circulating and said the issued was “not going to be an onerous financial problem for people”.

“It’s a practical solution to a difficult problem arising from a [European Court of Justice] court judgment. Therefore, administrative costs in relation to the scheme are significantly reduced.”