pursuant to the Water Services (Amendment) Act 2012 (“the Act”)


In October 2009 the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that Ireland was in breach of Waste
Directive 75/1442 for not having proper legislation or administrative provisions in place to
ensure that the domestic wastewater from septic tanks was disposed of in a manner which
would not be a danger to human health or to the environment. The ECJ judgment required
Ireland to introduce legislation to provide for the registration, monitoring and inspection of
septic tanks.

In or around September 2011 the government gave us the broad brushstrokes of the proposed
charge on septic tanks. There was pressure being exerted by the EU to have the legislation
passed as they were threatening Ireland with a €2.7 million lump sum fine and a €26,000 fine
per day for its continued breach of the ECJ judgment. The Water Services (Amendment) Act
2012 was finally passed in February 2012.

This charge has been found to be quite unpalatable, not alone because it is yet another charge
on top of the Household Charge for many homeowners living outside of our towns and cities,
but also because of the fear of potential repair costs that might be incurred if a septic tank was
found, on inspection, to be in breach of the standards under the Act.


The Septic Tank Registration Charge will affect all domestic wastewater treatment systems.
Basically any property that is not connected to the main sewerage system. According to the
2006 census, a total of 418,033 houses have individual septic tanks.

The Act provides:

“Domestic waste water treatment system” means a system involving physical, chemical,
biological or thermal processes, or a combination of such processes, utilized for the treatment
or disposal of domestic waste water, or the sludge derived from domestic waste water, and

(a) all septic tanks and waste water tanks and systems receiving, storing, treating or disposing
of domestic waste water and all drains associated with such tanks or systems, and
(b) all drains associated with the discharge of domestic waste water, whether or not they
discharge to a septic tank or waste water tank;


All householders with a “domestic waste water treatment system” are required under the Act
to register details of their system with the Water Services Authority in their Local Authority. A
national register is to be compiled and held by the EPA.

The registration scheme becomes operable on 31st March 2012. The Septic Tank Registration
Charge is set at €50, but as an incentive to register early the Minister for the Environment has
set the Charge at €5 for registrations made in the first 3 months of the scheme.

After registration of the septic tank, the Water Services Authority concerned will issue a
Certificate of Registration which shall remain valid for a period of 5 years from the date it was
issued. On the expiry of the Certificate, the owner is required to renew the Certificate of
Registration with the Water Services Authority concerned – it is unclear whether there will be a
renewal fee at this stage.


When directing a septic tank inspection to be undertaken, the Agency or the Water Services
Authority concerned shall have regard to the National Inspection Plan under the Act.

The National Inspection Plan shall have regard to relevant risks or potential risks to human
health and/or the environment. This would indicate that septic tank inspections would be
focused on higher risk areas or where traditionally or recently there has been a risk to health
or the environment.

It should be noted that the Agency can from time to time as it thinks appropriate, and at least
once in each period of 5 years, review and revise the plan as it thinks fit.

If following an inspection, the owner of the property connected to the particular system /
septic tank is found to have contravened the regulations under Section 70L of the Act or the
system / septic tank is found to constitute a risk to human health or the environment, the
following is put in motion:

Inspector notifies the owner immediately.
Inspector notifies the Water Services Authority within 21 days stating the reasons for
his / her opinion.
Water Services Authority shall within 21 days of the notification issue an Advisory
Notice to the owner. The Advisory Notice shall outline how the septic tank / system
has contravened regulations, state the reasons for that opinion and shall direct the
owner to remedy the specified matters by a certain date.
The owner can appeal the Advisory Notice to the Water Services Authority within 21
days of the date of the Notice. This shall be done in the prescribed form and with the
prescribed fee, not exceeding €20 (per the Act). The Water Services Authority
appoints their own 'authorized person' to re-inspect the system / septic tank.
Within a further 10 days the authorised person shall, in writing to the owner /
Confirm the Advisory Notice; or
Confirm the Advisory Notice subject to such modifications, alterations or
additions as the authorized person considers appropriate; or
Cancel the Advisory Notice
If the owner is aggrieved by the confirmation (or confirmation subject to
modifications etc) of the authorized person, he / she may within 14 days of the date

of such confirmation appeal to a judge of the District Court in the district court district
where the system / septic tank is situated.

In determining an appeal the district court judge may, if he/she is satisfied that it is
reasonable to do so, confirm, vary or cancel the Notice.

70M.—(1) A person guilty of an offence under section 70B (12), 70C (2), 70E (10), 70G (5),
70H (18), or 70L (2) is liable, on summary conviction, to a class A fine - (MAX €5,000)


Sale of premises connected to domestic waste water treatment systems.

Section 70D of the Act

(1) A person who, on or after the prescribed
date, sells a premises connected to a
domestic waste water treatment system, shall on
the completion of the sale, furnish a valid certificate
of registration in respect of the treatment
system concerned to the purchaser of the
(2) A purchaser of a premises connected to a
domestic waste water treatment system shall, after
the completion of the sale, notify the relevant
water services authority of the change in ownership
and the water services authority concerned
shall update the register of domestic waste water
treatment systems accordingly.
If you have any questions in relation to any of the above, please contact Michael D.White &
Co. Solicitors