National inspection of septic tanks has commenced. Interim results show more than half of septic tanks fail inspection, says EPA

Date released: Apr 02 2014

  • 53 per cent of household septic tanks inspected by Local Authorities have failed first inspection.
  • Inspection target for Year One is to inspect at least 1,000 treatment systems by July 2014, there are 420 local authority inspections now complete.
  • Many of the failures could be avoided by householders taking simple steps to maintain their treatment systems.  

The EPA today released an interim review of progress in implementing the National Inspection Plan for Domestic Waste Water Treatment Systems 2013. The National Inspection Plan is being implemented by Local Authorities under the supervision of the EPA. 

Gerard O’Leary, Director, EPA’s Office of Environmental Enforcement said,

 “Since the publication of the National Inspection Plan, the EPA has appointed almost 100 inspectors, who are engaged in inspecting treatment systems across the country.  The first year of the national inspection plan for septic tanks is about setting up a new inspection regime and providing information to householders about how to maintain, and rectify simple problems with, their treatment systems.  The inspections will now become a routine part of local authorities’ work."

The review found that, in the first eight months of implementation of the Plan, between July 01 2013 and February 28 2014:

  • 449,109 waste water treatment systems have been registered by their owners.  This represents 90 per cent of all waste water treatment systems. 
  • 93 local authority inspectors were appointed by the EPA to undertake the inspection of treatment systems. 
  • 423 inspections were carried out by local authority inspectors. 
  • 47 per cent of domestic waste water treatment systems passed inspection.
  • In the majority of cases, those that failed did so because the tank was not de-sludged or it was not properly operated and maintained. Guidance is available to all homeowners to help them address these issues.
  • Local Authority inspectors in Carlow, Limerick, Louth, Meath and Westmeath completed all of the inspections allocated to them for the first year of the Plan to date. 
  • Advice to assist householders in maintaining their domestic waste water treatment systems is available through Local Authority leaflets and websites. Extensive information for homeowners is also available on www.epa.ie.


The EPA will review the Plan again after July 2014.  This review will include an assessment of the information gathered from the inspections and the response to the awareness raising campaign.

David Flynn, Programme Manager of EPA’s Office of Environmental Enforcement advised,

“There are simple steps that homeowners can take to help pass a septic tank inspection. On a regular basis, have the sludge emptied from your tank using permitted contractors, retain the receipt, and if you have a package treatment system get it serviced.  Look at www.epa.ie to find out information on septic tanks.”

The report is available on the EPA website.



Notes to Editor:

The Plan is delivered by Local Authorities and a minimum number of risk-based site inspections were allocated by the EPA for each county.  All Local Authorities and the EPA have made information available to the public on the inspections and on maintenance of treatment systems on their websites.

The Local Authority National Training Group provided specialist training for inspectors – approximately 130 participants have completed the training to date.

The EPA is responsible for appointing Local Authority inspectors – 93 inspectors have been appointed to date.

Local Authorities are administering a restricted grant scheme for the remediation of domestic waste water treatment systems under the Rural Water Programme – see link