The main message coming out from a packed Mount Temple Hall last Thursday evening where up to 250 persons were present on a cold wet winter’s night was that amendments are urgently required to the draft Septic Tank Bill which is currently being debated in the Senate before it goes into the Lower House for consideration. People accept the need to have clean water in our streams, rivers & lakes but the issue that came up is that who should have to pay for the improvements works if they are needed.
Speaking after the meeting Cllr. Frankie Keena who called the public meeting said that this is an issue that affects everyone throughout our community who have septic tanks and he felt that people should be given an opportunity to participate in this very important debate and if they are concerned the option available to them is to lobby, he said.
An important fact that came out of the meeting was that 43% of County Westmeath’s population have septic tanks, so this bill if passed will have a huge impact financially on these people, he added.
While both John McGrath ( MMKDA ) & Eamon O’Cuiv T.D. were speaking one could feel the shock, concern & anxiety gathering at the meeting. It was outlined that under the proposed draft bill people who have private septic tanks will be faced with registration charges ( €50 ) , second inspection charges ( €200 ) and if there is a need to upgrade their septic tanks they could be faced with charges ranging up to €17,000 depending on the site & soil conditions. It is important to point out that a large number of septic tanks will require upgrading up to the new EPA standards, so people are going to be hit financially hard on this.
I am now calling on people who have concerns about this to contact their local Government TDs & Senators and tell them that enough is enough and request them to make amendments to this bill, said Cllr. Keena.
This Government needs to face reality in that people just have not got the money to pay such charges, he added.
In the past people built their homes & septic tanks to the proper specification under the conditions of their planning permission, and now that more stringent specifications have been introduced by the EPA in 2009 it is unfair to expect these people to be liable for costs to upgrade, he said.
At the public meeting Eamon O’Cuiv put forward proposed amendments to the bill covering such areas as the abolishment of the registration & second inspection charges and also a minimum grant aid of 85% to be made available to rural dwellers if they have to upgrade. The money for this could be sourced from the Water services programme which has a budget of up to €440 million annually. There is no reason as to why a 10% slice of this could not be made available to rural home owners if needed, and the beauty of this is that it would not cost the exchequer anything extra, he said.
In conclusion, I want to thank John McGrath, MMKDA & Eamon O’Cuiv, TD for their presentations, the large number of people present for their attendance & questions and the Mount Temple Community Centre committee for making the hall available, he said.
If anyone wants further information or clarification on this draft Septic Tank Bill please feel free to contact me. I strongly feel that we need to keep the momentum going and harness the energy that came out from the meeting last week to lobby and campaign on this issue. Time is not on our side as the Government is fast tracking this through the Oireachtas so the time may shortly come that we will need to take to the streets and march on the Dail on this matter in order to get our message across, he concluded.