Speaking at the March Meeting of Cavan County Council, John Paul Feeley strongly criticised the draft Regulations outlined in the consultation document recently published by Phil Hogan TD, Minster for the Environment. He was speaking in the context of a reply from the Department of the Environment to concerns raised on foot of a previous motion before the Council from Councillor Feeley.
‘Taken on there own the proposed regulations are harmless. But put into the context of the powers given to the EPA and the inspectors under the Act and the information set out in the Departments own Regulatory Impact Assessment these amount to a ‘Wolf in Sheep’s Cloths,’ are a cause of major concern to rural dwellers.’
The Waste Water Treatment Systems Regulations were to be implemented in the context of amendments to the Planning Act to exempt works required under the Regulations. The proposed amendments have not yet been published.
‘When you see the reports published in the Irish Independent (12th March 2012) outlining the plans to inspect 165,000 homes across the country with the first 35,000 to be dealt with in 2013 it is clear that the Ministers often quoted commitment to confine inspections to 10% of homes is not accurate. The Minister has handed over responsibility to the EPA and will wash his hands of the problem,’ stated Councillor Feeley.
The Fine Gael Election Manifesto promised funding to assist homeowners to up-grade their systems, with figures provided by the Department suggesting costs of over € 15,000 in extreme cases. No funding has yet been provided.
‘The Minister says funding may be provided, his Party Manifesto said it would be provided, his own officials have stated that the Department have no idea of what the costs would be per house but admitted that the costs could be up to € 15,000 and rubbished suggestions of grant aid stating that people have to maintain there sewerage systems like they have to maintain the heating system etc. in their home. The Minister needs to live up to his promises on this matter. Huge funding has been provided to Urban Treatment Works, rural Ireland deserves the same.’
Highlighting other deficiencies the West Cavan County Councillor pointed out that the EPA from 2009 had set out difficult and costly requirements for Treatment Works at individual houses. The proposed regulations emphasis desludging as the solution to most problems.
‘When the Council grants planning permission expensive and complex treatment works are required. If de-sludging is the answer why can this not be the solution in all cases, including new house. It again demonstrates that there is no clear thinking on this matter in the Department of the Environment. I also asked the Council to set out what contractors are approved in County Cavan for de-sluding and what facilities are available from the Council for desluding and what costs arise. The Council is to clarify these matters and come back to the Council.
Finally, the Fianna Fáil Councillor asked for clarification on the costs involved for the County Council in administering the new regulations.