State to seek end to septic tank fines


The Department of the Environment is to argue Ireland should not have to pay fines of €12,000 per day to the EU from February 12th onwards, the day on which the inspection plan for septic tanks was finalised.

The State was ordered to pay €2 million and a further €12,000 per day by the European Court of Justice on December 19th.

The ruling came after the European Commission argued that Ireland’s 500,000 septic tanks may be causing harm to the environment and putting human health at risk by polluting surface waters, groundwater and drinking water sources.

Court judgments

Yesterday the commission said the adoption of the inspection plan by the Environmental Protection Agency means Ireland meets the requirements of the European Court of Justice judgments and that the fines will stop.

A spokesman for the department said it will request that the cessation of the daily fine is backdated to February 12th, the date on which the EPA adopted the plan.

When calculated up to this date, inclusive of the initial €2 million fine and the accumulative daily fine, Ireland is due to pay over €2.6 million.

The EPA yesterday announced that inspections of septic tanks will begin in July and will initially concentrate on areas where waste water discharges present a high risk to health or the environment.

Inspection notice

Homeowners will be notified by their local council at least 10 days before an inspection.

Inspectors will check that septic tanks are registered; are not leaking; that system components are in working order; effluent is not ponding on the surface of the ground; the system is not discharging directly to surface water without a licence; rainwater and clean surface water are not entering the system; the system is being properly operated and maintained; and that the system has been de-sludged.