Letter to EPA Re: Code of practice consultation draft 2007

13th January 2009

Attn: Dr. Mary Kelly
Director General
Environmental Protection Agency
PO. Box 3000
Johnstown Castle Estate

for SINGLE HOUSES – (P.E < 10) – Consultation Draft 2007


Dear Madam,

It has been brought to our attention that the above draft document is to be published and incorporated into the Building Regulations in its present form.

This document, which contains such an inordinate amount of errors, contradictions and ill-considered and inappropriate “guidance”, must call into question the competence of its authors. If it is promulgated in its present form it will do a destructive disservice to environmental protection. For instance, and as outlined in previous correspondence, it takes the basic and somewhat rudimentary process of percolation testing and attempts to give it a bogus scientific status by the addition of meaningless mathematical formulae. This attitude of needlessly complicating simple processes will inevitably result in fabricated site assessment reports, to the detriment of the entire situation. A code of practice for wastewater treatment should be a practical reference handbook for “competent persons”, i.e., persons who are professionally qualified in wastewater engineering, and not a long, diffuse and obviously very poorly edited document such as the above. For the document to be sustainable it must fix responsibility on designers and others in the supply chain and not simply on occupiers. It must also make reference to Building, General Product Safety, Consumer and other relevant legislation.

If the document has undergone, or is undergoing revision, we would strongly urge that a revised draft be circulated prior to publication to ascertain whether it addresses basic practical and regulatory issues.

It should be noted that its predecessor, “EPA 2000”, which was rejected by the Department because of its inadequacies, and which is not recognised by An Bord Pleanála, is still being actively promoted by the EPA to such an extent that it has now been incorporated into a number of county development plans as a pseudo statutory requirement, despite being classified as a draft document with no force in law.

The “EPA 2000” document is also being used as the basis for the EPA sponsored FÁS/FETAC course for aspiring site assessors, where the course instructors persist in promoting the false impression that strict adherence to its guidance is the only methodology officially acceptable. This course awards a certificate of attainment of competence to a non-existent “standard”, which is of very dubious worth in the context of the certification requirements of the chartered professional bodies for Building Regulations compliance. The course has to date processed many hundreds of candidates, some of them sponsored by local authorities. For the majority of others, there are little or no employment prospects in this fairly limited field of activities. For persons who are familiar with the area the course is widely regarded as a money gathering “scam”, which reflects no credit on the EPA.

As Director General of the EPA you must be concerned with the situation which has resulted from the misuse of the seriously flawed EPA 2000 document, and its unlawful promulgation as a replacement for S.R.6:1991, which in fact remains the only document with official standing. It is difficult to believe that the EPA personnel who are pursuing this course are following EPA policy, which in turn must raise questions concerning control or governance within the management structure of the organisation.

We have, over many years, made representations to the Department, the EPA, the NSAI, and the Agrément Board concerning the wilful failure to protect the environment and the consumer by imposition of even minimal credible standards or codes of practice for domestic wastewater treatment. Our representations have been ignored, and our concerns even publicly derided in some quarters. As a last resort on the National scene, we have recently made an oral and written presentation to the Dáil Joint Committee on the Environment. The matter is now also in the hands of the EU Commission. We have been advised that some of these issues are in the process of being dealt with by the Commission and have already been referred to the European Court of Justice. I assume that you will be joined in the case when it comes to a hearing.

Concerning the role of the EPA in relation to pollution of surface and ground waters in Ireland, it would unfortunately appear that the EPA has become part of the problem rather than the solution.

We would welcome an opportunity to discuss these and related issues with you, and therefore request a meeting at your earliest convenience.

Yours sincerely,

Frank Cavanagh
Managing Director, BioCycle Ltd.