Response to EPA Letter Re: January & February 2009 Letters

7th May 2009

Dear Madam,

I have received your reply, dated 20thApril 09, to my letter of 13th January and 23rd February 2009.

Your response is most disappointing as it clearly confirms that your organisation is in denial of the environmental policy errors of the past decade, and refuses to honestly confront and correct the damaging effects pointed out by ourselves and others.

You do not accept that EPA 2000 was rejected by the Department of the Environment or an Bord Pleanála. I would point out that EPA 2000 was originally conceived, proposed and promoted to replace S.R.6; 1991 in the Building Regulations. Whether it was “rejected” or “not accepted” the fact is that its inherent defects and inadequacy meant that neither it, nor its variants of 2004 and 2007, were deemed fit for adoption into regulations.

Peer reviews, or other academic mutual admiration practices notwithstanding, neither the EPA nor other public bodies are exempt from compliance with statute law, legal standards and engineering best practice requirements.

You state that the forthcoming Code will not refer to consumer or general product safety issues.

I would inform you that, where hazardous products are concerned, both consumer and general product safety legislation imposes a specific legal requirement one everyone in the supply chain to fully inform prospective consumers of any hazards or risks associated with their use.

Septic tanks, treatment systems, or any product which may expose a consumer to contact with sewage, is a hazardous product. The EPA, which purports to issue Codes of Practice, supervise and control sewage treatment and effluent discharge, is an integral part of the supply chain. For the EPA to dismiss its legal obligations in this regard would appear to provide an example of the abdication of executive responsibility which now seems to permeate public bodies.

At a recent public workshop, organised by a local authority, it was stated that henceforth it would be their policy that septic tanks and reed beds would be preferable acceptable in planning submissions than propriety treatment products.

It was also stated that this policy “has been given the nod” by the EPA.

When it was pointed out that the law requires a supplier of a wastewater treatment product / system to design to an official Irish or European standard and have the system tested at an EU notified test centre to a meet a standard for water tightness, structural durability and treatment performance, it was greeted with a stony silence.

This EPA practice of surreptitiously promoting use of septic tanks, for which the standard I.S EN 12566-1 2000 is never mentioned, let alone enforced, also where peat filters, reed beds, sand filters etc, are proposed and for which no standard exists, exposes the periodic EPA public pronouncements on the environmental pollution dangers of septic tanks etc, as mere rhetoric.

Your letter re-states the statutory duty placed on owners or occupiers of premises in relation to public health and environment and avoids reference to identifying or fixing responsibility on others in the supply chain for installation of inadequate or defective systems. Making the thousands of existing owners or occupiers, victims of malpractice or maladministration the culprits, is a concept worthy of Kafka.

Whether the responsibility for the effects of malfunctioning systems rests with the owner/occupier, the system designer supplier, installer, local authority, EPA, NSAI or elsewhere will be a matter to be decided in the courts.

Furthermore, the present EPA policy is being interpreted by some Local Authorities as preventing the upgrading of malfunctioning septic tank systems where the T value is above the values noted in the EPA guidance or where the site is restricted in size. This policy needs to be clarified where an engineering solution is available.

You also assert that the EPA does not certify FÁS/ FETAC assessors. In view of the fact that EPA personnel have participated in the administration and examining panels which assess candidates for certification your disclaimer might be considered disingenuous.

We note that you propose to publish an updated document in 2009. Should this document continue to ignore the adoption of proper standards and procedures for protecting the environment and consumer rights we will once again refer the matter to the Oireachtas, public domain and to the European Commission.

As mentioned in previous correspondence we have included the EPA in our submission to the Secretariat of the Committee on Petitions at the European Parliament, which has now initiated an investigation.

Yours faithfully.

Frank Cavanagh
Managing Director, BioCycle Ltd.