A large group of Connemara protesters took their grievances regarding the introduction of septic tank charges and inspections straight to the gates of the Leinster House yesterday.
Up to 500 people travelled from Co Galway to attend the protest which took place for most of the day as the Water Services (Amendment ) Bill 2011 was being discussed behind the doors of the Dáil.
The protesters have long been staunch opponents to the introduction of the Bill which will see a new registration and inspection regime for septic tanks being enforced. The Bill could see residents in Connemara, who have septic tanks, paying a registration fee of €50 and possibly facing even more costs following inspections by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA ) which would commence in 2013.
Following many local protests, including a protest at the Galway County Council buildings last month, the protesters vowed to continue their fight against what has been described as an attempt to impose unfair and unequal extra charges on rural dwellers. Around four coaches left Galway yesterday morning arriving in Dublin to begin a protest which continued until late afternoon with the group being addressed by a number of TDs.
Speaking in the Dáil yesterday at the report stage of the Water Services (Amendment ) Bill, Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Phil Hogan, said that his Department is currently in discussions with the European Commission and the EPA regarding the performance standard guidelines that will have to be adhered to by septic tank and wastewater systems in 2013.
Minster Hogan said: “Before finalising the regulations on the guidelines, including the requirements for maintenance and desludging, there will be a four week period of public consultation. There are two main reasons for this Bill, the first of which relates to non-compliance with EU legislation. On October 29, 2009, the European Court of Justice ruled against Ireland in relation to the treatment of waste waters from septic tanks and other on-site wastewater treatment systems. The early enactment of this legislation, which will introduce a registration and inspection system for domestic waste water treatment systems, is a critical element in Ireland’s defence against the imposition of fines by the Court. Ireland’s defence needs to be submitted by February 3.
“The second reason is more fundamental. The key objective of the new legislation is to enhance and protect public health and the environment which will, in turn, benefit rural dwellers in terms of a better quality of life and better quality water. Responsibility for protection of public health and the environment applies to everyone, whether living in urban or rural areas. Environmental and health issues must be dealt with as circumstances dictate and where risks exist.
“The Bill offers the most direct means of complying with both the European Court of Justice ruling and therefore the most direct means of ensuring that human health and the environment is adequately protected from the risks posed by domestic waste water treatment systems.”