I want to commend the vast majority of householders in County Clare who registered their on-site wastewater treatment systems. The latest information available shows that of the 19,769 householders liable to register, some 17,579 did so, which is an effective compliance rate of 88%. Despite some scaremongering, the vast majority of householders have complied and registered their septic tank. I want to acknowledge the work of Clare County Council in raising awareness and for facilitating the collection of fees.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is presently bringing forward a National Inspection Plan for domestic wastewater treatment systems. It’s anticipated that inspections will commence in the middle of this year which will be carried out by qualified local authority staff.

Last month, the Minister for Environment, Community and Local Government, Phil Hogan, announced a grant scheme to provide financial assistance to households whose septic tanks and other domestic wastewater treatment systems require remediation or upgrading following inspection. This scheme will apply to treatment systems which have been registered by the due date of 1 February 2013 and the grant payable will depend on the cost of the work necessary and the income of the household concerned. As the Minister indicated, the scheme will give a higher level of support to households on lower incomes.

The Minister also announced that he is increasing the grant for Group Sewerage Schemes to €6,500 per house or 75% of the cost of the scheme, whichever is the lesser. The previous rate of grant available for group sewerage schemes was €2,031.58 per house or 75% of the cost of the scheme, whichever is the lesser. The Department proposes, in the first instance, to carry out a number of pilot schemes based on an increased grant level.  Minister Hogan has indicated that he will be asking local authorities to include in their requests for funding under the 2013 Rural Water Programme proposals for group sewerage schemes which might be viable based on an increased grant. It’s intended that the selection of the pilot schemes and related funding arrangements will be completed as soon as possible after proposals have been received from local authorities in 2013.  Local Authorities will be asked to prioritise their proposals, paying particular regard to the public health and environmental benefits that would accrue taking in to account the estimated costs.