In Ireland, septic tanks and percolation areas are the main method of treating waste from rural dwellings.
However, many of the systems in place are not working effectively and are failing to treat sewage properly.
Rectifying problems with sewage systems can be difficult and costly. Many older systems are no longer fit for purpose and should be replaced with a new treatment system.
There are local authority grants available for replacing sewage systems.
Unfortunately, rural dwellers cannot avail of them until their existing facility fails an inspection.
This can be frustrating for people with a defective sewage treatment system because they cannot request an inspection.
A new company called Iska Water Treatments claims to have an alternative solution for people with defective septic tanks who cannot afford to replace the system.
It consists of an apparatus retro fitted above ground to a pre-existing one/two chamber septic tank system.
It was designed by engineer, John Scouner who claims it can almost completely purify sewage coming from a septic tank.
John Scouner and Michael O’Sullivan are business partners in Iska Water Treatments, which is based in Athlone, Co Westmeath.
The company is two years in operation and research has been carried out on the apparatus for four years.
The Irish Farmers Journal visited a rural dwelling house in the midlands to see the system fitted and find out how it works.
How it works
John says when your septic tank and percolation area fails, the septic tank fills up with waste water.
This system sucks in the waste with an electric power pump, filters it and puts it into the percolation area at 93% purity in a 100% biological way, he claimed.
“A normal septic tank sends out 40% pure water into the percolation area and it is the other 60% that blocks up the percolation area and causes the system to fail over time,” said John.
He said their system works by lifting a set quantity of soiled water from the septic tank.
“The water is treated with biological bacteria in the tank. The bacteria breaks down the suspended solids and other waste and the water, which is 93% pure, is pumped into the percolation area.
"A very small amount of solids are gathered and returned to the septic tank,” explained John.
He said the amount it lifts and the frequency that it lifts can be adjusted to accommodate different-sized households.
If the number of people in the house changes during the year, like at Christmas, the system can be adapted for this. It can also be turned off at night when no water is being used.
This system and installation costs €1,990 including VAT. Michael claims this is a low-cost alternative to replacing an existing system which could cost up to €10,000.
“It takes one hour to install whereas a traditional septic tank could take a few days,” said Michael. He said it could be a useful addition to new installations too.
“Even if you do reinstall a traditional septic tank there’s a high possibility that the system will fail again because of the poor soakage and T value in the soil.”
John said the unit is ideal for a lot of gardens that are not accessible for a digger. “Our system can be installed in almost any space it is not very big at 1.6m x 1.3m x 0.8m or heavy at 45kg empty.”
According to Michael, this is the only system of its kind in Europe.
They currently have a patent pending and its performance has been EN certified in countries that experience extremes in temperature. Michael said the system is approved for grant aid in Ireland.