Ireland environment minister ‘disappointed’ by EU fine

EU Environment Commissioner Janez Potoènik has recommended that Ireland be fined a lump-sum fine of €2.7 million and a daily penalty payment of €26,173 over the country's handling of septic tanks.

The EU has said that Ireland has been given adequate time to adopt legislation to ensure the proper implementation of safety checks and inspections of wastewater involving septic tanks.

Ireland has more than 400,000 septic tanks and discharges from them have contributed to micro-biological pollution of groundwater and nutrient pollution of surface waters.

This poses a risk to human health and the environment because pathogens can enter drinking water sources via septic tanks that are poorly designed, located or maintained.

Currently, Ireland has no system for the inspection or monitoring of the performance of septic tanks and similar on-site systems.

The EU says that following a court judgement, Ireland should have adopted the necessary legislation in 1993 and has been given adequate time to comply.

The Commission acknowledges that Ireland has taken some positive steps but it is not satisfied with the slow pace of progress.

Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Phil Hogan T.D said he was ‘disappointed’ with the Commission’s decision.

He blamed the previous administration for failing to have the political will to drive forward the changes.

He said the current government had recently approved urgent drafting and publication of the necessary legislation.

He said: “Achieving compliance with the ECJ ruling is a high priority for my Department and for the Government.

“My aim is to have the legislation considered and enacted by the Oireachtas without delay.

“I am, naturally, very disappointed that the Commission has decided to escalate the case at this time, particularly given the speed with which the new Government has acted on this matter.”

Alison Brown

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