Septic tank regime to be 'pragmatic'

 

THE ENVIRONMENTAL Protection Agency (EPA) has reaffirmed that the inspection regime for septic tanks in rural Ireland will take a “pragmatic” approach, focusing on high-risk areas close to drinking water sources, bathing waters and fisheries.

Other factors such as geography, topography and soil conditions will also be taken into account by inspectors from local authorities, who will examine whether septic tanks are secure (not leaking), are “properly operated and maintained, and desludged at appropriate intervals”.

There are at least 450,000 septic tanks serving one-off houses in the countryside. So far, 250,000 householders have registered under the scheme, availing of a reduced charge of €5; this has now gone up to €50, with February 1st next as the deadline to register.

In its public consultation on the national inspection plan for domestic wastewater systems, the EPA said it was likely to start in mid- 2013. In the interim, the agency is consulting the public on its approach to inspections and how people can prepare in advance.

“We want to help people with simple steps they can take so that when the inspections start there is a greater likelihood of their treatment system passing the inspection,” said Gerard O’Leary, director of the EPA’s Office of Environmental Enforcement.

“We want to help people to comply. And from calls we are receiving and visits to our website, it is clear that a great number of septic tank owners are conscious of the potential impacts on environment and human health and want to be ready for the inspection process.” Householders will be notified at least 10 days in advance of an inspection, which will be carried out for the most part by local authority officers.

Inspections “will focus on determining whether or not the system is posing a risk to human health or the environment”.

Mr O’Leary said the EPA expected that “after the engagement and consultation process, a great number of additional treatment systems will pass inspection because people will have taken simple steps to address problems” – aided by guidance on the EPA’s website.

The consultation document Proposal for a National Inspection Plan for Domestic Waste Water Treatment Systems is on the website, with a deadline of October 31st for submissions in writing or by e-mail to wwts@epa.ie. See epa. ie/ whatwedo/advice/wastewater/.

The EPA has reported that Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions fell by 6.7 per cent in 2011 to 57.34 million tonnes, with emissions from the residential sector falling the most (by 15.6 per cent), energy down by 10.5 per cent and industry 10.7 per cent lower.

Lower emissions from the energy sector reflect a rise in the share of renewables in gross electricity consumption – from 12.9 per cent in 2010 to 19.4 per cent in 2011. Wind resources were significantly higher in 2011 than in 2010 (up 56 per cent).

By contrast, emissions from transport fell by only 2.7 per cent, while those from agriculture were down by 1.9 per cent. The EPA noted that agriculture remained the single largest contributor to overall emissions, at 32.1 per cent, followed by energy.

The energy sector (primarily electricity generation) accounted for nearly 21 per cent of total emissions, with transport close behind at 19.7 per cent, followed by industry and commercial (14 per cent), residential (11.5 per cent) and waste disposal (1.8 per cent).

Although the EPA said Ireland was “on track” to meet its commitments under the Kyoto protocol on climate change, “the country faces considerable challenges in meeting EU 2020 targets and developing a low-carbon emission pathway to 2050”.