Homeowners need to take action to protect themselves, their families and neighbours from risks posed by septic tanks, says EPA

Date released: Nov 14 2017

  • Half of septic tanks failed local authority inspection in 2016, posing a potential health risk to homeowners and their neighbours.
  • Half of sites with a septic tank and a private drinking water well onsite failed inspection.
  • A quarter of septic tanks failed due to owners not removing sludge build-up from their tanks, an issue that can be easily rectified by home owners.

The Environmental Protection Agency today released a review of the implementation of the National Inspection Plan for Domestic Waste Water Treatment Systems for the period 1st January to 31st December 2016. The National Inspection Plan is being implemented by local authorities under the supervision of the EPA.

The review shows that 49 per cent of septic tanks failed inspection in 2016, up from 45 per cent in 2015. Septic tank failures were mainly due to a lack of proper operation and maintenance. The failure by home owners to maintain and operate a septic tank system adequately can pose a health and environmental risk through the pollution of private drinking water wells or water courses.  Many septic tank owners source their water from their own private well.

Commenting on the results Mr. Darragh Page, Programme Manager of the EPA’s Office of Environmental Enforcement said,

“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. There are simple steps that homeowners can take to ensure their system is managed properly and will pass an inspection.  These include: having the sludge emptied from the tank on a regular basis, using a permitted contractor and retaining the receipt and, if the homeowner has a package treatment system, having it regularly serviced and keeping a record of servicing.”

By taking these simple steps homeowners can protect themselves and their environment from contamination.

The results of the review of the 2016 inspection plan are available on the EPA’s website.

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

Notes to Editor:

The EPA is responsible for the development of a National Inspection Plan for Domestic Waste Water Treatment System. The EPA is also responsible for the co-ordination and reporting on the implementation of the plan by the local authorities as provided for in the Water Services (Amendment) Act 2012. The second plan published in 2015 covers the period from 1st January 2015 – 31st December 2017. Under the plan the local authorities. are required to undertake a minimum number (1,000) of risk-based site inspections for each county. 

Section 70K. (3) of the Water Services (Amendment) Act 2012 sets out the legislative requirements for reviewing the Plan.  In particular it provides that:

‘The Agency shall from time to time as it thinks appropriate, and at least once in each period of 5 years after the date of making the national inspection plan, review the plan and make such revisions thereto as it thinks fit and reference in this Part to such a plan, shall unless the context otherwise requires, be construed as including references to such a plan as so revised’.

The EPA has published today a review of the 2016 inspection plan, the results of which are available on the EPA’s website. The primary purpose of the review is to assess whether strategies implemented are successful and effective in protecting human health and the environment.

All local authorities and the EPA have made information available to the public on the inspection process and on maintenance of treatment systems on their websites.

The EPA is currently preparing the third National Inspection Plan this covers the period 1st January 2018- 31st December 2021.