ENVIRONMENT Minister Phil Hogan has published The Water Services Amendment Bill which contains the legislation governing the proposed new charges for the inspection and maintenance of septic tanks.
According to the Friends of the Irish Environment one third of the estimated 400,000 septic tanks in rural Ireland are currently causing pollution.
Minster Hogan said that all septic tanks will have to be inspected and a “modest” registration fee of €50 would apply.
“Inspections may give rise to householders being advised to improve the maintenance of their system or in more serious situations, they may require the upgrading or remediation of the treatment system,” he said.
Opposition politicians however seized on the possible need for upgrading with Fianna Fáil Galway West TD Eamon Ó Cuív saying home owners could be facing bills of up to €12,000.
Deputy Ó Cuív said that despite assurances from the Minister that there would be no inspection charges imposed the Bill was “riddled with stealth taxes” in the form of repeated inspection charges.
“Only the first inspection is free. Subsequent inspections will cost €200 each time, on top of the cost of any necessary upgrade works.”
Cork North West TD and Fianna Fáil Agriculture Spokesperson Michael Moynihan described the Bill as “A blatant attack on rural Ireland” and accused the Government of trying to bury the Bill’s publication.
“It is simply unacceptable for the Government to publish such an important and controversial piece of legislation that will result in significant extra bills for 400,000 septic tank owners nationwide, and simply hope that no-one would notice or question them about it.
“This bill is riddled with hidden charges for septic tank owners. Not only will they have to pay a €50 fee to register their tanks every five years, they will also have to pay the full cost of any upgrade works required and a further €200 for subsequent inspections.
“This means if they wish to appeal the findings of an inspector, they will have to pay €200 for an appeals inspection.
“It also looks like they will have to pay a further €200 for a second inspection after necessary upgrades are carried out, and for any further inspections after that,” he said.
The Department said in a statement that the Bill does provide for procedures for householders to appeal the result of an inspection.
If there is a second inspection, “A fee will be payable for this but it will be refunded if the advisory notice is cancelled as a result of the reinspection,” the Department said.
The Irish Farmers’ Association has asked the Minister to clarify if the registration charge is a once-off payment or not.
The organisation also called for support for people who were required to upgrade their septic tanks.