Water Services Amendment Bill deadline set

Irish minister for the environment, community and local government Phil Hogan has unveiled a deadline of February 3 for enactment of the Water Services Amendment Bill 2011.

Announcing the deadline last week (January 13), Mr Hogan was forced to reject a claim made by Deputy Éamon Ó’Cuív that he had “seriously mislead” the Dáil in relation to the timeline for the enactment of the Bill and over non-compliance fines.

According to Mr Hogan, the deadline to ensure legislation is in place is important to ensure non-compliance fines are not incurred by Ireland. This follows an application by the European Commission to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) on November 23 2011 seeking the imposition of a lump-sum penalty of €2.7m and daily fines of more than €26,000 against Ireland for failing to comply with the ruling.

As a result, the Bill includes Ireland’s response to an ECJ ruling against Ireland in relation to septic tanks and other on-site waste water treatment systems. The ruling concluded that Ireland has failed to follow articles four and eight of the Waste Directive, issued by the ECJ on October 29 2009.

In its submission, the Commission stated “more than enough time had elapsed since the ruling”, warning that the Irish authorities should have achieved compliance already.

Mr Hogan confirmed that priority has been given to the drafting of the legislation in order to comply with the ECJ ruling.

However, Mr Ó’Cuív, argued: “The Government has used threats of imminent fines to force the House into hurried decisions that will have very serious consequences for hundreds of thousands of home owners across the country. It has now been confirmed to me by the European authorities that these threats are false.

“The European Commission has informed me that the European Court of Justice won’t reach its findings until the summer at the earliest. They also confirmed that it is not true that Ireland will incur fines if the Bill is not passed by Feb 3.”

Carys Matthews

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