Malfunctioning septic tanks systems are posing risks to people's health and the environment

Date released: July 02, 2019

  • Nearly half of septic tank systems failed inspection in 2017 and 2018, posing a risk to human health and the environment.
  • Householders need to fix malfunctioning septic tank systems.
  • The Government’s proposed expanded septic tank grant scheme is welcome as part of addressing the issue.

The Environmental Protection Agency today released a review of over 2,000 inspections of septic tanks and other domestic waste water treatment systems in 2017 and 2018. Nearly half of the systems failed inspection because they were not built or maintained properly. Faulty systems can contaminate household wells and pollute rivers. Householders should avail of the proposed expanded grant scheme when it becomes available, to address malfunctioning septic tanks.

Commenting on the report, Dr. Tom Ryan, Director of the EPA’s Office of Environmental Enforcement said,

“If you do not maintain your septic tank, it can contaminate your own or your neighbour’s well or your local stream, putting your health at risk and that of your family and neighbours. You can take simple steps to maintain your septic tank by making sure it is not leaking, ponding or discharging to ditches and by cleaning it out regularly.”
The report also found that nearly one third of systems that failed inspections during 2013-2018 are still not fixed. Local authorities need to take appropriate measures to ensure householders fix systems that fail inspection.

Noel Byrne, Senior Scientist in the EPA’s Office of Environmental Enforcement said,

“It is important that householders fix systems where problems are detected. To improve water quality, the government’s proposed expanded septic tank grant scheme, due to be launched later this year, will increase the maximum grant aid available to €5000 and remove the means test requirements.”
The report, Domestic Waste Water Treatment Systems 2017 and 2018, is available on the EPA’s website. 


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

Notes to Editor

Domestic waste water treatment systems are used by rural householders to treat sewage. There are nearly half a million systems in Ireland and most (90%) are septic tanks.

The EPA is responsible for the development of a National Inspection Plan for domestic waste water treatment systems. The current plan covers 2018-2021. Under the plan, local authorities are required to undertake a minimum of 1,000 inspections each year, distributed by risk across the country.

Local authorities and the EPA have made information available to the public on the inspection process and on maintenance of systems on their websites. Further information is also available on the EPA website.