Septic tanks not being maintained or desludged spark concern

Inspections reveals faulty tanks pose threat to human health and environment

The Government’s expanded septic tank grant scheme broadens availability of grants and increases the maximum available to €5,000.

The Government’s expanded septic tank grant scheme broadens availability of grants and increases the maximum available to €5,000.

 

Half of the 1,160 septic tanks and other domestic waste water treatment systems failed inspections by local authorities during 2019, according to the Environmental Protection Agency

In its evaluation of inspections completed last year, the agency noted the problem is ongoing. It said 27 per cent of systems that failed inspections during the 2013-2019 period “are still not fixed”. Lack of maintenance and desludging was identified as a key issue.

With 500,000 septic tanks and other forms of domestic waste water treatment systems operating in Ireland, “householders with private wells in rural areas are particularly vulnerable to pollution from faulty septic tanks”, it warned.

Local authorities identified serious issues with nearly 300 systems “where they were found to be a risk to human health or the environment”.

Co Mayo had the worst failure rate at 85 per cent; followed by Longford (73 per cent), Roscommon (72 per cent), Wexford (70 per cent), Kilkenny (67 per cent) and Kerry (65 per cent).

Grant scheme

Wexford, however, carries out the most inspections, backed by a high level of consistent enforcement, with 81 per cent of systems that failed in the county fixed, the report noted.

The agency said it hoped a grant scheme for septic tanks recently expanded to cover specific areas where work was being focused to improve water quality under the national river basin management plan would help address the problem which was mostly in rural areas.

Director of the EPA’s office of environmental enforcement Dr Tom Ryan said: “If you do not maintain your septic tank, it can contaminate your own or your neighbour’s well, putting your health at risk and that of your family and neighbours.

“It may also pollute your local stream or river. You can take simple steps to maintain your septic tank by cleaning it out regularly and by making sure it is not leaking, ponding or discharging to ditches.”

Household wells

The Government’s expanded septic tank grant scheme broadens availability of grants and increases the maximum available to €5,000, he said, noting that grants were also available for addressing issues with household wells.

On systems that failed inspections that were still not fixed, local authorities needed to take action to make sure householders fixed them, the EPA report said.

It was important that householders fixed systems where problems were detected and be aware they could pose a serious health risk, said EPA senior inspector Noel Byrne. “While there has been an improvement in the number of systems fixed, there are still many systems where faults are not addressed over a number of years. This requires increased engagement and enforcement by local authorities to address remaining failures.”

The EPA is responsible for the development and implementation of a national inspection plan for domestic waste water treatment systems. Under the plan, local authorities are required to undertake a minimum of 1,000 inspections each year, distributed across the country based on risk.

The report, Domestic Waste Water Treatment Systems Inspections and Enforcement 2019, is available at epa.ie