Hogan cuts septic tank registration fee from €50 to €5


THE MINISTER for the Environment last night announced a dramatic reduction in the septic tank registration fee from €50 to €5 amid claims from opponents it was a clampdown and U-turn.

Phil Hogan said he had decided to set the fee at €5 for those householders with septic tanks who registered during the first three months of the scheme after it becomes operable on March 31st.

He had reduced the fee “as an incentive for owners to register early”. After the three months have expired, the fee will revert to the original €50.

All septic tank owners will be required to register by March of 2013. According to the 2006 census, a total of 418,033 houses have individual septic tanks.

The timing of the announcement yesterday evening prompted opponents to say that it was politically motivated, coming only hours before a public meeting on the issue in Dundrum House in the south Tipperary base of leading opponent, Independent TD Mattie McGrath.

Last night Mr McGrath described the development as a “trick-of-the-loop”.

Fianna Fáil’s environment spokesman Niall Collins described the reduction as a distraction from the main issue.

“He knows as well as I do that the registration fee was never the issue. It is a drop in the ocean for septic tank owners compared to the potential cost of replacing or upgrading tanks that fail inspection. He has missed the point.

“The reason that thousands of people have attended public meetings around the country is because they are worried about the costs of upgrading without any support from the State,” said Mr Collins.

Mr Hogan described the lower fee as a commonsense approach.

“There’s a lot of scaremongering and disinfestation on this for the last six months from my political opponents. They have had a field day,” the Minister said.

There will also be new requirements in the draft standard to be published this week. Homeowners will have to ensure that no roof water or surface water run-off enters the sewage treatment system. In addition, all grey water from washing machines and sinks must be treated in the system.

The new standards are being introduced with the successful passage of the Water Services (Amendment) Bill through the Oireachtas. The Bill has ensured Ireland is in compliance with an EU waste directive, and has also avoided annual fines of €26 million from Europe.

The row over the registration fees – plus the possibility of homeowners having to carry out expensive remedial work on septic tanks – has led to protest meetings in rural areas where there are high concentrations of septic tanks.

Separate public meetings were held in Tipperary, Laois-Offaly and west Limerick last night.

There were a number of angry contributions from people who criticised the minister at the Tipperary meeting.

Mr Hogan told the meeting one in 10 tanks will be inspected. He added: “If you’re obeying the rules, you’ll have no problem with the system.”

On the question of rural people being forced to pay this charge, when urban residents are not, Mr Hogan said: “You don’t expect people in urban Ireland to pay for a problem that’s not of their making?”.

Mr Hogan said it was “absolute nonsense” to suggest the €5 fee was a U-turn. “I had that discretion available to me at all times, it’s in the legislation if you’d care to read it . . . Up to €50 is what’s in the primary act which was passed by the Oireachtas last week and I’m now taking the first available opportunity to outline the regulations, after filing my defence to the European Commission last Friday.”