EPA publishes inspection plan for domestic waste water systems

Date released: Feb 19 2013

EPA publishes inspection plan for domestic waste water systems

  • EPA publishes inspection plan for domestic waste water systems
  • EPA welcomes announcement by Commission that Ireland meets the requirements of the Court of Justice judgments and the fines will stop.
  • Ultimate aim – to have systems working effectively and eliminate risks posed to health and environment.
  • Focus on helping owners to maintain their domestic waste water systems to prevent pollution.
  • Inspections will concentrate on areas of highest risk

The EPA has today published the National Inspection Plan for Domestic Waste Water Treatment Systems 2013. The EPA also welcomes today’s announcement by the European Commission that Ireland has now adopted all the measures necessary to ensure compliance with the Court of Justice judgment in Case C‑188/08.

The Plan outlines how septic tanks and waste water treatment systems will be inspected in coming years, while making people aware of the risks to their health and to the environment if treatment systems are not working properly.

Commenting on the Plan, Gerard O’Leary, EPA Director, said:

“There are around 500,000 homes in Ireland with domestic waste water treatment systems – our goal is to have every single one of those working effectively. If treatment systems are not working properly they can pose significant risks to people’s health and to the environment. The National Inspection Plan initially focuses on a campaign to advise, educate and help people to operate and maintain their systems.  We want to increase the chances of treatment systems passing inspections as this will deliver the best outcome for public health and the environment.  Inspections will begin later this year and will be concentrated in areas in need of greatest protection."

The EPA has identified areas of priority and set minimum inspection levels for each local authority.  Inspections will be concentrated in areas where waste water discharges present a high risk to human health or the environment. Priority areas are based on levels of risk to sensitive water receptors, for example, drinking water sources, bathing waters, or pearl mussel beds. 

When inspections commence, homeowners will be notified of an inspection at least 10 days in advance by their local authority.  Inspections will focus on determining whether or not the treatment system poses a risk to human health or the environment. Checks will include:

  • whether the system is registered;
  • that it is not leaking;
  • that the system components are in working order;
  • that effluent is not ponding on the surface of the ground;
  • that the system is not discharging directly to surface water without a licence;
  • that rainwater and clean surface water are not entering the system;
  • that  the system is being properly operated and maintained; and
  • that the system has been de-sludged.

Concluding, David Flynn, EPA Programme Manager, said,

“We all need to take responsibility for protecting and enhancing rivers, lakes and groundwaters.  This plan is one part of the effort to improve and protect our waters for the benefit of the health and wellbeing of our people and also of farming, industry and tourism.”

Short animated videos developed by the EPA on What you can do to maintain your waste water treatment system and What to expect from an inspection are available on the EPA website and are intended to help homeowners pass an inspection and comply with the law.

The is also available on the EPA website.

ENDS


Notes to Editor:

  1. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has published the National Inspection Plan for Domestic Waste Water Treatment Systems 2013 in accordance with the requirements of Water Services (Amendment) Act 2012.
  2. The Water Services (Amendment) Act 2012 was published in June 2012. The National Inspection Plan refers to the almost 500,000 on-site domestic waste water treatment systems (‘septic tanks’) which collect, treat and discharge waste water from households in un-sewered areas across Ireland.
  3. In finalising the Inspection Plan, the EPA is required to take account of the following:
    - the potential risk of domestic waste water treatment systems to human health and the environment;
    - relevant information relating to the type and location of domestic waste water treatment systems;
    - appropriate and specific criteria;
    - targets and indicators for inspections as well as any incidental or ancillary matters as may be prescribed by the Minister.
  4. If owners of domestic waste water treatment systems have registered their system and the systems are being maintained and are working properly they do not have to take any further action.  Homeowners who are looking for information or have any concerns regarding the operation and maintenance of their systems should either contact their local authority or visit the waste water advice pages of the EPA’s website. 

Further information: Niamh Hatchell/Emily Williamson EPA Media Relations Office 053-9170770 (24 hours) or media@epa.ie