Wexford Fianna Fáil TD John Browne has told the Dáil that the Government’s Septic Tank Bill (Water Services Amendment Bill) in its current form is an attack on rural communities.
Speaking during a debate on the Bill in the Dáil today (Wednesday, 30 November 2011), Deputy Browne said: “The principle at stake in the Bill is that rural dwellers will have to pay more for the same services as other taxpayers, merely in order to live in the countryside. This sets a precedent that rural dwellers will be discriminated against by the Government on the basis of where they live and the requirements that it demands.
“Rural dwellers will now have to pay the sceptic tank charges in addition to the proposed €100 household charge. Also, the implementation of water charges will mean that rural dwellers will have to pay separate charges for water disposal through their sceptic tank charges and also face new fees for water through the new metering system. It is certainly double taxation.
“I wish to raise the issue of grant aid and support for people who may have to upgrade. Figures are being bandied about that it will perhaps cost up to €17,000 to upgrade a problem septic tank. I was a Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when farmers were jumped on by the EU and asked to upgrade their farmyards, and close to €500 million was allocated to farmers to upgrade their systems under the farm waste management scheme. I had no problem with that as I believe farmers were entitled to get grant aid to upgrade their systems and bring them up to modern, EU standards.
“This will be very difficult for families and people, particularly with systems going back to the 1960s and 1970s when we did not have the high standards that now apply for septic tanks, percolation areas and all of that. Will the Minister help by introducing a grant aid system for people who will have to, under his legislation, upgrade their systems? If he does not introduce a grant system to support such people, including old age pensioners and those on low incomes as well as those who are working, they will not be in a position to implement the scheme as the Minister wants them to, and they will certainly not be in a position to pay €16,000 or €17,000 for an upgrade,” said Deputy Browne.
Fianna Fáil has proposed 75 amendments to the Bill, which include scrapping the septic tank registration fee and appeals fees, offering homeowners an 85% retrofit grant scheme for any upgrade works required and providing septic tank owners with one free de-sludging per year before the Bill comes into effect.
Deputy Browne commented, “Fianna Fáil remains vehemently opposed to the multiple charges facing homeowners in Minister Phil Hogan’s Septic Tank Bill. While we recognise the need to adhere to the European Court of Justice ruling, Fianna Fáil firmly believes that the entire cost of the registration and upgrade process cannot be pushed directly onto homeowners.
“We have opposed Minister Hogan’s septic tank legislation tooth and nail, in the Dáil, the Seanad, at County Council meetings nationwide and at public meetings held by our elected representatives. We have come up with constructive suggestions on how to make this a much fairer Bill. But because of the Government’s overwhelming Dáil majority they will succeed in pushing through this discriminatory legislation.
“It is time for householders and rural communities and organisations to stand up against this Bill and demand changes from the Minister. There are real fears that this is just the thin end of the wedge for our communities.”