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30-08-2011, 21:16   #1
Scofflaw
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Clarification regarding EU legislation and action on septic tanks

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In response to recent press reports, the European Commission would like to clarify a number of points with regard to EU legislation and action on septic tanks in Ireland.

Poorly managed or controlled septic tanks may cause significant harm to the environment and human health, including through discharges containing bacteria such as E. coli and pathogens and parasites. This is a particular concern in Ireland, which has more than 400,000 septic tanks throughout the country. EU legislation sets out an effective framework to address this, however Ireland has not yet implemented it. Following a 2009 European Court of Justice ruling, and a subsequent 2010 formal notice setting out the Irish infringements, the European Commission in May 2011 referred the issue back to the Court of Justice and requested the imposition of a lump sum fine of €2.7 million and a daily penalty payment of €26,173 for as long as the infringements persist. The Commission notes that Ireland is preparing legislation but is not satisfied with the slow pace of progress in complying with EU requirements.

Approximately one third of Ireland's housing stock consists of isolated dwellings almost all of which use individual waste water systems to dispose of their waste water. In total there are more than 400,000 septic tanks throughout the territory of Ireland. In many parts of the country geological and soil conditions may make it difficult for septic tanks to function without causing pollution.

Given the scale, and if poorly managed and controlled, septic tanks may cause significant harm to the environment and human health. In particular, discharges from septic tanks contain bacteria such as E. coli and may contain pathogens or parasites that may put human health at risk because they can enter drinking water sources. In this regard, the Irish Environmental Protection Agency has reported widespread bacteriological contamination of Irish groundwater. Domestic waste water also contains nutrients such as phosphorus and nitrates that contribute to nutrient pollution of surface waters.

Under the 2006 EU Waste Framework Directive, measures must be taken to ensure that waste is recovered or disposed of without endangering human health, and without using processes or methods which could harm the environment. To ensure this, Ireland is required to introduce a system of monitoring, inspection and maintenance of individual waste water systems in the countryside. This system of inspections and its financing aspects consistent with the polluter pays principle are at the discretion of the Irish government.

In October 2009, the European Court of Justice ruled that Ireland was failing to comply with the EU Waste Framework Directive (except in County Cavan) in relation to septic tanks.

In November 2010, the European Commission sent a formal letter of notice under ongoing infringement proceedings urging Ireland to comply with the 2009 European Court of Justice ruling on septic tanks. No legal measures had been adopted to ensure that septic tanks were subject to adequate checks and inspections to protect human health and the environment. The letter noted that if Ireland failed to act, the Commission could refer the case back to the Court and request financial penalties. In May 2011, the Commission referred the issue back to the Court of Justice requesting the imposition of fines and penalties as long as these infringements persist.
A fight between rural votes and environmental legislation! Who will win?

cordially,
Scofflaw
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31-08-2011, 12:35   #2
reilig
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A fight between rural votes and environmental legislation! Who will win?

cordially,
Scofflaw
I definitely agree that all rural septic tanks need to be brought up to a standard where they do not pollute the groundwater. However there needs to be a sensible and affordable approach taken in order to meet these requirments.

However, I feel that an article like this seeks to divide urban and rural dwellers - making the urban dwellers believe that the rural dwellers are most responsible for environmental damage from the disposal of their human waste. In my recent exprience, urban waste treatment systems are hiding behing huge curtains and need to be exposed so that urban dwellers know where and how their waste is treated, rather than thinking that it goes into the bottomless pit never to be seen again.

An example is the many small towns and villages that are on the river Shannon from Carrick on Shannon to Limerick. The majority of small towns and villages only got treatment systems in the last 15 years and previous to this relied on septic tanks. Now, septic tanks were not ideal, because it was impossible to ensure that they all worked to the proper standard. However, those that did work, decomposed the human waste, filtered the water through percolation systems and fed the "clean" water back through rivers and drains into the Shannon, causing almost 0 pollution as they worked.

You would need to be involved in the construction or the maintenance of modern small town and village treatment systems to see what happens (or what doesn't happen). They effectively just break up the human waste (Like a large food processor) and deposit these liquidised solids through a large pipe in the middle of the river so that they can float out into the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. The funny thing is that most towns and villages on the Shannon get their water supplies from it - even though the sewerage from the town above them may be all part of the big picture.

Now which has less of an environmental impact, modern urban sewerage treatment facilities or septic tanks that operate properly?

Something tells me that when they have inspected and attained control of all rural septic tank's, it won't make the slightest bit of difference to the amount of E. coli and pathogens and parasite infections and human health.

Last edited by reilig; 31-08-2011 at 12:38.
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31-08-2011, 12:42   #3
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and then there's still the problem of slurry on fields which the EU has encouraged with the giving of grants to put up slatted sheds! When are the gov't going to do something about anaerobic digesters?
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31-08-2011, 13:25   #4
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Agreed and one has to wonder where a lot of the septic tank contents end up too!

I am lucky enough (I think) to have a puraflo system and the claim here is for the removal of 99.9% of Coliforms and 100% of Pathogenic Bacteria,

See:

http://www.symbiotictrading.com/puraflo.htm

Will that be enough of a system for the government I wonder, along with an annual inspection and a record of where the contents of the septic tank went?

A system like this is not cheap and most houses before 2000ish dont have one.

We are never going to be on a mains system.
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31-08-2011, 14:25   #5
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Something tells me that when they have inspected and attained control of all rural septic tank's, it won't make the slightest bit of difference to the amount of E. coli and pathogens and parasite infections and human health.
I wouldn't really agree - while what you say about local sewage systems is undeniably true, septic tanks have been for decades a major source of widespread chronic low-level contamination.

To quote the Geological Survey:

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In Ireland, human activities have not yet caused the same degree of pollution problems to groundwater as in most other EU countries. However, an increasing number of localised problems are coming to the attention of the GSI and groundwater researchers, mainly where wells are polluted by septic tanks and farmyards. Beneath some septic tanks and farmyards are pockets of contaminated groundwater. As these sources are associated with houses, water wells are often located nearby, and may be in or close to the polluted pockets of groundwater. So, although the actual quantity of polluted groundwater is small, it can result in significant health risks. In many areas, at least 30% of private domestic and farm wells are contaminated, in some vulnerable areas more than 50% are contaminated at some time during their use. Most of these wells are not just contaminated chemically but are polluted by faecal bacteria, and probably viruses.
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31-08-2011, 14:49   #6
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Agreed and one has to wonder where a lot of the septic tank contents end up too!

I am lucky enough (I think) to have a puraflo system and the claim here is for the removal of 99.9% of Coliforms and 100% of Pathogenic Bacteria,

See:

http://www.symbiotictrading.com/puraflo.htm

Will that be enough of a system for the government I wonder, along with an annual inspection and a record of where the contents of the septic tank went?

A system like this is not cheap and most houses before 2000ish dont have one.

We are never going to be on a mains system.
If people received correct instruction on what to put into their septic tank, they would never have to empty them. Modern detergents, soaps and chemicals have a lot to answer for.
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31-08-2011, 14:51   #7
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and then there's still the problem of slurry on fields which the EU has encouraged with the giving of grants to put up slatted sheds! When are the gov't going to do something about anaerobic digesters?
And what will Anaerobic Digestors do to reduce the amount of slurry being spread on fields? There will still be as much waste from the digestor. Digestors also need to be fed with a lot of maze (mixed with slurry), the by product of this is even more slurry!!
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31-08-2011, 14:56   #8
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I wouldn't really agree - while what you say about local sewage systems is undeniably true, septic tanks have been for decades a major source of widespread chronic low-level contamination.

To quote the Geological Survey:



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I very much agree with you Scofflaw!

However, much of this pollution comes from septic tanks that aren't working or installed properly because there was virtually no enforcement of regulation on, or inspections of, septic tanks for the last 30 years. (actually for ever).

This septic tank issue saw directives sent from Europe to Ireland in 2006 - at the height of the boom. If they enforced the septic tank regulations back then, people would have been better able to afford it (well they would perceive that they were better able to afford it) and it would not appear to be just another form of raising money for cast strapped local authorities (as it currently appears)
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31-08-2011, 15:25   #9
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I very much agree with you Scofflaw!

However, much of this pollution comes from septic tanks that aren't working or installed properly because there was virtually no enforcement of regulation on, or inspections of, septic tanks for the last 30 years. (actually for ever).

This septic tank issue saw directives sent from Europe to Ireland in 2006 - at the height of the boom. If they enforced the septic tank regulations back then, people would have been better able to afford it (well they would perceive that they were better able to afford it) and it would not appear to be just another form of raising money for cast strapped local authorities (as it currently appears)
True enough - but it's hardly a surprise when the Irish government fails to implement environmental legislation.

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31-08-2011, 17:34   #10
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I wouldn't really agree - while what you say about local sewage systems is undeniably true, septic tanks have been for decades a major source of widespread chronic low-level contamination.

To quote the Geological Survey:



cordially,
Scofflaw
In Ireland we have a higher number of cattle than in the whole of the UK, evidently. Having spent a considerable time on farms, I'd have thought the problem with human fecal contamination from sceptical tanks is miniscule compared to the problem of animal fecal contamination from overflowing slurry tanks (particularly pig and cattle slurry tanks), the overflow making its way directly to the nearest watercourse, and run off from fields where animal slurry is spread on top of the land, and is again free to run off into the nearest watercourse.

Just because the animal slurry issue is a greater problem doesn't mean there is no need to ensure sceptical tanks are working properly, although I'd have thought that forcing the issue as the EU seems to be doing is yet another reason why the Eu is less and less popular in the countries of Europe.
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31-08-2011, 17:41   #11
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In Ireland we have a higher number of cattle than in the whole of the UK, evidently. Having spent a considerable time on farms, I'd have thought the problem with human fecal contamination from sceptical tanks is miniscule compared to the problem of animal fecal contamination from overflowing slurry tanks (particularly pig and cattle slurry tanks), the overflow making its way directly to the nearest watercourse, and run off from fields where animal slurry is spread on top of the land, and is again free to run off into the nearest watercourse.
It does say "septic tanks and farmyards" - both are problems.
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Just because the animal slurry issue is a greater problem doesn't mean there is no need to ensure sceptical tanks are working properly, although I'd have thought that forcing the issue as the EU seems to be doing is yet another reason why the Eu is less and less popular in the countries of Europe.
Because they're used as a bogeyman/scapegoat by national governments? I'd agree. The government agrees these things in Europe, and doesn't bother to implement them until a case is taken against them because they're in breach of their agreement - and then makes out that the big bad EU made them do it. And people do fall for it - every time.

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31-08-2011, 18:02   #12
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It does say "septic tanks and farmyards" - both are problems.


Because they're used as a bogeyman/scapegoat by national governments? I'd agree. The government agrees these things in Europe, and doesn't bother to implement them until a case is taken against them because they're in breach of their agreement - and then makes out that the big bad EU made them do it. And people do fall for it - every time.

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Scofflaw
That's an interesting point. I'm not sure if you saw Declan Ganley sitting in for Vincent Brown the other week. It was interesting and highlighted how our politicians now have very little power, and that we are governed by civil servants, both domestically and at EU level. He had a couple of politicians on and a guy from the Wall St Journal, from memory.
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31-08-2011, 20:15   #13
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That's an interesting point. I'm not sure if you saw Declan Ganley sitting in for Vincent Brown the other week. It was interesting and highlighted how our politicians now have very little power, and that we are governed by civil servants, both domestically and at EU level. He had a couple of politicians on and a guy from the Wall St Journal, from memory.
That's not really the case, though - I can't fault Ganley for his showmanship, but his analysis has always been dubious. In our case, we're governed by - surprisingly - the government, which is to say the Cabinet, because the whip system reduces the Oireachtas to a rubber-stamp body. So legislation is presented in principle as a fait accompli, while the nuance and detail in it comes out of the civil service drafting procedures. At the EU level, the lack of domestic accountability of the Cabinet again means that we have little or no input to what our government agrees to - so, again, the outcome is presented as a fait accompli largely decided in detail, again, by civil servants - often the same ones, even, since much EU legislation is drafted by national civil servants in joint working groups.

Those are, however, domestic Irish issues, and I don't think you'll find many people - outside the Oireachtas, anyway - who don't think our systems need to be reformed. The most useful addition in recent years to the powers of the Oireachtas over EU legislation came through Lisbon rather than any domestic reform, which is pretty sad.

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01-09-2011, 08:16   #14
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That's not really the case, though - I can't fault Ganley for his showmanship, but his analysis has always been dubious. In our case, we're governed by - surprisingly - the government,
I assume you didn't see the show in question as it wasn't his analysis, but was the unanimous view of the panel. One had been a French MP, then had been an MEP and is now a French civil servant, another was an MEP who told a story about a civil servant in the EU threatening an MEP and forbidding the MEP to make a speech (curiously the MEP acquiesced) and so on.

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because the whip system reduces the Oireachtas to a rubber-stamp body. So legislation is presented in principle as a fait accompli, while the nuance and detail in it comes out of the civil service drafting procedures. At the EU level, the lack of domestic accountability of the Cabinet again means that we have little or no input to what our government agrees to - so, again, the outcome is presented as a fait accompli largely decided in detail, again, by civil servants - often the same ones, even, since much EU legislation is drafted by national civil servants in joint working groups.

Those are, however, domestic Irish issues, and I don't think you'll find many people - outside the Oireachtas, anyway - who don't think our systems need to be reformed. The most useful addition in recent years to the powers of the Oireachtas over EU legislation came through Lisbon rather than any domestic reform, which is pretty sad.
The whip system does turn our MP's into lobby fodder and the results are partially to blame for the mismanagement of so many countries by incompetent governments. Reform is not confined to Ireland, with many in the UK and across Europe wanting radical reform, not just of domestic parliaments but of the EU also.
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01-09-2011, 12:28   #15
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http://www.boards.ie/vbulletin/showt...p?t=2056374212

As I understand it, a great deal! They can take in vast amount of organic waste & when the treatment is completed, all you are left with is solid waste with no odour which can then be safely used as fertiliser. What is more, you can then use the methane gas produced for direct energy or for generating electricity. It seems almost too good to be true, everyone seems to win!
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