In a recent article in this series we focused on the provisions of the Water Services (Amendment) Bill 2011. As you will recall the Bill was published on the 3rd November 2011 and set out the changes proposed to be introduced with regard to the registration of in particular, septic tanks, in this country.

Since that article in January of this year the Water Services (Amendment) Bill 2012 has been enacted and is now referred to as the Water Services (Amendment) Act 2012. The purpose of the Act is to ensure that waste water from septic tanks and other individual waste water treatment systems is disposed of without harming the environment or human health. The measure has been controversial especially amongst rural dwellers who will be most affected by this legislation.

Date for registration

Under the Act anyone who owns a septic tank or a waste water treatment system needs to register with their Local Authority before the end of March 2013. While the regulations pursuant to the Water Services (Amendment) Act 2012 have yet to be published it is expected that after a public consultation period a registration system will be in place by the 31st March 2012. There will be an online registration system and a facility for written registration also. Once registered a Certificate of Registration will be issued by the Local Authority valid for five years. It will be necessary to re-register every five years – although it is not clear if a registration fee will arise at this stage. It is important to note that the register will be available for public inspection and failure to register will be an offence.

Registration fee

In a well-publicised change to the draft legislation Minister Hogan earlier this year bowed to public pressure and confirmed that there would be an introductory fee for those owners of septic tanks who registered their septic tank within a certain time frame. The result is that the fee for registration before the 30th June 2012 is €5.00 and from July 2012 to March 2013 it will be €50.00. The reduced fee is to encourage early registration.

Inspections

It is expected that the inspections will commence in 2013 and the focus will be on septic tank systems that are believed to pose a risk to water sources. Where remedial works are required the local authority will issue an advisory notice to the owner. It is the responsibility of the owner to carry out the remedial works. However the owner may request a re – inspection from the local authority on payment of a re-inspection fee and there is also a right of recourse to the District Court for a homeowner if they are aggrieved by the decision of the local authority. Different time limits apply for each stage and specific advice will be required in each individual scenario.

Sales/Purchase

In accordance with Section 70D of the Act, the seller of a premises connected to a domestic waste water treatment system shall on the completion of the sale furnish a valid certificate of registration in respect of the treatment system concerned to the purchaser of the premises. In effect it will not be possible to sell a dwelling house with a septic tank unless the certificate of registration is available.

A purchaser meanwhile must notify the relevant authority of the change of ownership and the register of domestic waste water treatment systems shall be upgraded accordingly.

These changes are significant and far reaching and will impact on a substantial number of house owners throughout the country.