The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released the report on Domestic Waste Water Treatment Systems Inspections in 2021. Of the 1,147 inspections of septic tanks and other domestic waste water treatment systems completed by local authorities in 2021, 53% (604) of the systems failed inspection because they were not built or maintained properly.
A total of 29% (337) of systems inspected were considered a risk to human health or the environment, because faulty systems can contaminate household drinking water wells and pollute rivers.
Dr Tom Ryan, director of the EPA’s Office of Environmental Enforcement, said: “If you do not maintain your septic tank, it can contaminate your own or your neighbour’s drinking water well, or your local stream, putting your health at risk and that of your family and neighbours.
"Some of these problems may go unnoticed unless householders check their septic tank and drinking water well. Householders should visually check their septic tank and get their well tested at least annually to satisfy themselves that their septic tank is not posing a risk to the health of their families, their neighbours and the environment. Where problems are detected, householders need to take the necessary steps to fix their septic tanks.”
Local authorities issue advisory notices to householders setting out what is required to fix septic tanks that fail inspection. The report found there were 533 cases where issues notified to householders more than two years previously had still not been addressed. The septic tank grant scheme, which was expanded in 2020, offers grants of €5,000 to assist in addressing malfunctioning systems.
Noel Byrne, EPA programme manager, said: "The need to fix failing septic tanks has been repeatedly highlighted by the EPA as a concern. It is unacceptable that more than 500 failed septic tanks are not fixed more than two years after inspection.
"More than half of these involve sewage ponding in gardens and discharging to ditches and streams, which cannot be allowed to continue. Local authorities must increase their enforcement effort to ensure failed systems are fixed.”
The National Inspection Plan for Domestic Waste Water Treatment Systems 2022-2026 was published in 2021. The plan increases inspections from 1,000 to 1,200 from 2023 onwards. Inspections will be focused near rivers where there is greater risk to water quality, and areas with shallow soils where there is greater risk to household wells.
The report, Domestic Waste Water Treatment Systems Inspections in 2021, is available on the EPA’s website.