Failure to fix faulty septic tanks is a risk to human health and the environment, and can’t continue, says EPA.

Date released: May 08, 2024

  • Local authorities completed 1,189 septic tank inspections in 2023, targeted near rivers and household drinking water wells which are most at risk of contamination by faulty septic tanks.
  • 45 per cent of septic tanks failed inspection. It is critically important that householders fix septic tanks that fail inspection as such failures have the potential to be a risk to human health and the environment. 
  • Enforcement by local authorities is inconsistent and needs to improve, with Waterford, Roscommon and Kilkenny having the lowest rates of septic tank failures resolved. 
  • Grants for fixing septic tanks have increased from €5,000 to €12,000.

9th May 2024: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today released the report on Domestic Waste Water Treatment System Inspections 2023 which details the findings of septic tank inspections completed by local authorities in 2023. Of the 1,189 septic tanks inspected, 45 per cent (532) failed because they were not built or maintained properly.

Domestic waste water treatment systems, mostly septic tanks, are used by householders to treat sewage. There are nearly half a million systems in Ireland. The EPA’s National Inspection Plan 2022-2026 has identified the number of inspections that need to be completed, particularly near rivers and in areas where septic tanks are co-located with household drinking water wells. Local authorities are required to complete a minimum of 1,200 inspections annually as part of their implementation of the plan.

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

“Faulty septic tanks are a risk to human health and the environment and must be fixed. The EPA, through the National Inspection Plan, has identified rivers and areas where household drinking water wells are most at risk of contamination by faulty septic tanks. Local authority inspections are targeted in these areas. It is critical that householders protect their family’s health and the environment by fixing the problems identified, drawing on the enhanced grants now available.” 

Where septic tanks fail inspection, local authorities issue advisory notices to householders setting out what is required to fix the problem. The EPA report found that there were 576 cases where issues notified to householders over two years previously had still not been addressed. 

The grant schemes for remediation of septic tanks were changed at the start of 2024 to increase the amount from €5,000 to €12,000 and remove the requirement to have registered the septic tank in 2013. This presents a significant opportunity for householders to fix their septic tanks and resolve open advisory notices.  

Noel Byrne, EPA Programme Manager said, 

"It is unacceptable that the number septic tanks left un-fixed for more than two years continues to rise. Greater enforcement is needed by local authorities to ensure failed systems are fixed. Where faulty septic tanks are not being fixed, particularly given the availability of the enhanced grant scheme, local authorities need to use their enforcement powers to protect the environment and public health.” 

The National Inspection Plan for Domestic Waste Water Treatment Systems 2022 - 2026 was published by the EPA in 2021. The plan requires a minimum of 1,200 inspections from 2023 onwards. There was a shortfall in inspections by five local authorities in 2023 and these need to be completed in 2024. The EPA issued legal directions to make up for shortfalls in inspections by Waterford County Council in 2022 and to Galway County Council in 2023.

The report, Domestic Waste Water Treatment System Inspections 2023, is available on the EPA’s website.  

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

Notes to Editor

The Water Services Act 2007, as amended, requires the EPA to make a National Inspection Plan with regard to the inspection and monitoring of septic tanks. The EPA is responsible for the revision of the National Inspection Plan at least once in each 5-year period. The current plan is the National Inspection Plan for Domestic Waste Water Treatment Systems 2022 – 2026. Under the plan, local authorities undertake a minimum of 1,200 each year from 2023, 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.

Details of the eligibility criteria and level of grant are available on the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage website. In 2023, 194 grants, totaling nearly €1 million, were awarded. 

Table 1: Inspection findings by local authority area (ranked by percent of systems fixed)

WATER SERVICE AUTHORITY Inspections required 2023* Inspections done 2023 Systems failing 2013-2023 Percent fixed at end 2023
Louth 12 12 50 98%
Fingal 13 13 37 97%
Wicklow 55 57 141 97%
Carlow 18 18 38 95%
South Dublin 4 4 31 94%
Dun Laoghaire Rathdown 2 6 23 91%
Cork County 136 136 501 90%
Cavan 33 33 152 89%
Longford 4 10 60 88%
Wexford 130 123 787 88%
Sligo 7 13 143 87%
Kerry 59 65 307 87%
Offaly 23 23 66 86%
Limerick 64 17 239 84%
Meath 63 73 381 83%
Westmeath 7 2 38 82%
Donegal 107 113 360 81%
Kildare 25 37 149 78%
Clare 135 136 237 77%
Laois 10 11 93 75%
Mayo 53 56 506 73%
Tipperary 40 40 169 72%
Monaghan 44 44 126 71%
Galway City 2 2 6 67%
Galway County 105 27 329 66%
Leitrim 10 4 154 66%
Kilkenny 51 51 187 57%
Roscommon 13 13 217 57%**
Cork City 10 10 4 50%
Waterford 40 40 53 45%**
TOTAL 1275 1189 5584 80%

* Includes inspection shortfalls carried forward from 2022.
** Waterford and Roscommon also had a low rate of DWWTS failures fixed in 2022.


Local authorities who did not complete their inspection allocation in 2023
High rate of DWWTS failures fixed
Moderate rate of DWWTS failures fixed
Low rate of DWWTS failures fixed