Half of septic tanks and private wells fail inspections
According to the EPA’s report on domestic water treatment systems inspections for 2016, local authorities inspected 1,100 sites last year and found 49% to be in breach of regulations. This is up from 45% in 2015.
Of the premises inspected, 299 had private drinking water wells and 51% of these failed inspections.
The reasons given for breaches were deficient operation and maintenance by the owners (29%), insufficient desludging (24%) and risk to human health or the environment (29%).
Just over half of the sites that failed inspections in 2016 are now compliant.
“Homeowners may be putting themselves, their families and their neighbours at risk of ill health if they do not maintain their septic tank system adequately,” said Darragh Page of the EPA’s office of environmental enforcement.
Homeowners who want to address septic tank issues should not have to wait for an inspection
IFA environment chair Thomas Cooney called on the Government to make septic tank improvement grants available before an inspection takes place. “At the moment, a homeowner can only avail of the remediation grant if they have been inspected by the council. This must change. Homeowners who want to address septic tank issues should not have to wait for an inspection and should be able to pro-actively work with their local authority to address this risk to human and animal health,” Cooney said. He contrasted this with the Government’s commitment to fund remediation of untreated wastewater discharges by local authorities.
EPA advice is that a septic tank must be desludged regularly so that the level of solids at the bottom of the tank remains between 75mm and 400mm. This can translate into different time intervals between pumping visits depending on the size of the tank and the number of people using it.
The estimated 440,000 owners of septic tanks in Ireland must use a permitted contractor licensed by their local authority to dispose of the sludge and keep receipts of individual payments and/or any regular maintenance contracts.