The municipal council must “rationally” set the upper rates of fees for waste collection from septic tanks and domestic sewage treatment plants, as well as the frequency of disposal of liquid waste by property owners – indicates the Ministry of Infrastructure. This comes in response to the intervention of the Human Rights Commissioner, who drew attention to the significant differences in septic tank removal fees in municipalities.
Now the Commissioner is asking the Office of Competition and Consumer Protection whether it has conducted – or plans to – analyze the market for sanitation services, in particular in terms of the impact of rates set by municipalities on freedom of competition and consumer rights.
The Human Rights Commissioner’s intervention was initiated in a petition addressed to the House of Representatives regarding amendment to the Maintenance of Cleanliness and Order in Municipalities Act. The petitioner noted that the current level of freedom of local legislators causes large discrepancies in the amounts of these rates. He cited the examples of Głogów municipality, where the highest price is PLN 25 per cubic metre, and, on the other hand, Lubsko municipality – PLN 216 per cubic metre.
“The importance of the petition cannot be denied. Even a cursory examination of the practice of municipal councils raises doubts about the criteria for setting top rates. It is about the consequences for consumers who may purchase services in conditions of virtual monopoly of municipal service companies of the local government,” he said in response to the Ombudsman’s petition.
The Commissioner then also asked the Department of Climate and Environment whether the Department was aware of the problem and, if so, whether any consideration had been given to introducing regulations into law (such as guidelines for setting top duty rates) that would help prevent crackdowns on variations in Determine the higher fee rates, and as a result – also these differences in the prices of services for citizens.
The answer came from the Ministry of Infrastructure, which reported that so far the ministry has not received any information about municipal councils raising the maximum rates for waste collection. Therefore, the Ministry did not consider broader regulation of this issue in the Law on Maintaining Cleanliness and Order in Municipalities.
According to the Municipal Self-Government Act, “matters including waterworks, water supply, sanitation, and municipal wastewater disposal and treatment are dealt with,” said Malgorzata Bogoka Szymalska, Deputy Director of the Ministry’s Water and Inland Navigation Department, stated. Municipality-specific tasks.” Furthermore, under the Law on Collective Water Supply and Collective Wastewater Disposal, these tasks fall to the municipality’s own responsibility.
“As rightly noted, the Municipal Council may, on the basis of a local law, apply varying fee rates for the collection of liquid waste, including setting higher fee rates depending on their characteristics (Article 6 (2) of the Municipal Law. In addition, the Municipal Council determines, in Regulations for maintaining cleanliness and order in the town, which is a law of local law, the frequency and manner of disposal of liquid waste from properties and from areas designated for public use (Section 4 (1) and (2) (3) of the law),” the deputy director wrote.
“However, in the opinion of the administration, the upper rates of charges for waste collection from septic tanks and domestic sewage treatment plants, as well as the frequency of disposal of liquid waste by property owners should be rationally determined by the municipal council, taking into account, Among other things, local conditions, which may include, among others, the number of residents using a particular system, the nature of the property (permanent or temporary residence, for example recreational plots), the wastewater treatment technologies used and related matters. MI emphasized the recommendations of manufacturers (in case of emptying sedimentation tanks in domestic wastewater treatment plants), the financial possibilities of residents, but also, among other things, the costs related to the collection and further management of effluent.
Bogoka Szymalska noted that on August 9, 2022, the amendment to the Water Law and some other laws entered into force. The package of these legislative changes includes, among others, the following: Strengthens the legal instruments of local government units “concerning the implementation of tasks related to the proper functioning of the municipal sewage management system, i.e. supervision and control of sewage discharge from individual sewage treatment systems.” , i.e. septic tanks (septic tanks) and domestic wastewater treatment plants.”
“The legal instruments of the municipality have been strengthened, among other things, by introducing penal provisions for obstructing or preventing the inspection of the owner of a property equipped with a septic tank or domestic wastewater treatment plant, including, among other things, the inspection of evidence of payment of service fees.” Related to the disposal of waste collected on the property, including liquid waste.
“In addition, the above-mentioned amendment to the law introduced provisions that improve the effectiveness of municipal supervision of the operation of the system for collecting liquid waste from sludge tanks and sewage sludge from domestic sewage treatment plant facilities by expanding the scope of reporting from entities,” adds the Deputy Director of the MI Department. It collects information on the origin of the liquid waste, including the installation of domestic wastewater treatment plants.
Now the Human Rights Commissioner has approached the Competition and Consumer Bureau regarding waste disposal rates. Piotr Mierzewski, Director of the Administrative and Economic Law Team at the BRPO, asks about the case of Wojciech Szymczak, Director of the Market Analysis Department at the Office of Competition and Consumer Protection.
Director Mierzejewski wants to know whether the Competition and Consumer Protection Office has conducted (or plans to conduct) analyzes of the market for septic tank services, in particular regarding the impact of prices set by municipalities on freedom of competition and consumer rights. If such tests have been performed, please share their results.
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