The court found Ireland had failed to make adequate legislation for dealing with domestic waste-water from septic tanks and other on-site wastewater treatment, last Friday (October 31).

Ireland, mainly due to its rural communities, has a larger than average amount of septic tanks compared with other European nations with a total of about 440,000.

This compared with Scotland where there is an estimated 100,000 and about 800,000 thought to be in use in England

Irish Labour MEP, Nessa Childers, who sits on Europe’s environmental committee, called the ruling an ‘abject failure’.

She said: “This ruling against Ireland slams the government’s abject failure to comply with EU law in regard to the operation of septic tanks and is a damning indictment of this administrations ‘green’ credentials.

“I believe this judgment is all the more embarrassing for the Green Party given the fact that the minister for the environment John Gormley has spent the last year effectively arguing on the basis of technicalities before the European Court of Justice that Ireland was acting in full compliance with the EU Waste Water Directive, when it was manifestly not.”

Irish minister for the environment, heritage and local government, John Gormley, hit back saying he was looking at introducing a licensing and inspection system for septic tanks.

He said: “Earlier this year I brought a memo to government identifying the need for a licensing and inspection system for septic tanks.

“I will be asking the public to contribute to the debate on how this ruling can be addressed and on the means of advancing the commitment.”

The minister added that under existing legislation, householders already have a duty of care to ensure that their systems do not pose a risk to human health or the environment

The full judgement can be read here.

Luke Walsh

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