Landowners, companies or farmers that contaminate land could face millions in clean-up bills as well as facing financial penalties when the Environment Liability Bill is introduced next year.
The new legislation, which will put Ireland in line with the EU, will place the full financial burden of restoring land to "how it was before it was damaged" on the person or organisation responsible for the contamination.
Offenders can currently be fined up to Euro 4m, but the rule operating on the polluter pays principle will see them billed for the total cost of clean-up operations.
The new legislation will transpose the EU Liability Directive into national law, though minister for the environment John Gormley is to hold a final consultation on its final form.
The Irish Business and Employers Confederation (Ibec) called on the government to be "balanced, reasonable and predictable" in the way it handles drafting legislation.
The EU directive, which was meant to have come into force on April 30, 2007, forces companies which contaminate land so that it "creates a significant risk to human health," pollute water or damage to habitats to pay for the clean-up and for restoration of habitats.
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