Inspections of Septic Tanks

The Water Services (Amendment) Act 2012 requires the EPA to produce a National Inspection Plan.  The Plan outlines the approach to be taken with respect to inspections.  The Plan sets out a two pronged approach, focusing on raising owner awareness and responsibility, and on the inspection process. 

The EPA has developed a scientific evidence based Risk Based Methodology to identify and prioritise systems for inspection of DWWTSs, which pose the highest risk to the environment and human health.  Consequently, inspections will be focused on susceptible environmental receptors in highly sensitive waters such as to maximising the outcome.  The number of inspections specified under the Plan for the first year is 1,000, this is the minimum number of inspections and it is anticipated that the overall number of inspections will be much greater than this.  The inspections will check that the DWWTSs do not pose a risk to human health or the environment.

Initially all 500,000 septic tanks in the country were going to be inspected but the Plan requires that local authorities inspect a minimum of 1,000 septic tank systems nationally.  This is because the Plan includes a risk based approach with more inspections being carried out in the highest risk areas having regard to sensitive receptors such as bathing waters and drinking water supplies.  The inspections will check that the systems do not pose a risk to human health or the environment. 

Why are they being carried out?

Inspections are being carried out to make sure that DWWTSs do not pose a risk to human health or the environment.  Owners of DWWTSs are obliged to properly operate and maintain their systems as required under the Water Services Act, 2007 and Water Services (Amendment) Act 2012.

How many inspections will be carried out and will I be inspected?

Local authorities are initially required to carry out a minimum of 1,000 inspections of DWWTSs across the whole country from July 2013 to July 2014 so not everyone will be inspected immediately.   Local authorities will determine the areas where inspections will be carried out at a local basis.  They will use the risk information and locations of sensitive receptors such as bathing waters and drinking water supplies to prioritise the areas of inspection. If you want to know the risk category for your area you can access the EPA's ENVISON GIS maps.

The local authority will write to you 10 days in advance of any inspection. You cannot request an inspection by the local authority. There is no fee for the first inspection carried out by the local authority.

Who will inspect the system?

Inspectors will be local authority employees and be appointed as inspectors by the EPA once they meet the criteria set out in the legislation.  The EPA maintains a list of appointed inspectors.

Householders should not allow any person to enter their property to examine their DWWTS unless they have received prior notification in writing from their local authority that their system is to be inspected. Any person claiming to be from a local authority should be asked for official identification.

When will the inspections commence?

Inspections will commence after the 1st July 2013.

What will be inspected?

The inspections are intended to find out if your DWWTS poses a risk to you and your family’s health and the environment.  They will consist of  a visual check to make sure that the DWWTS is not leaking nor has an unauthorised discharge, that it is properly operated and maintained and that it has been emptied of excess sludge when required.  

Click here for more information on What to expect from an Inspection

Also, information leaflets published by Department of Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government.

View the Domestic Waste Water Treatment System Inspection Form 

Will I get a copy of the inspection report?

Yes you will receive a copy of the inspection report within 21 days of the inspection.

What happens if my septic tank (treatment system) fails an inspection?

If your septic tank fails the inspection you will be notified immediately by the Inspector, a copy of the inspection report will issue to you within six weeks and it will be accompanied by an Advisory Notice, which sets out the reason for the non-compliance and advises what next steps you need to take. 

If you are not satisfied with the inspection report you may request a re-inspection using the form in S.I. No. 189 of 2013 and by paying the €20.00 re-inspection fee.

Please read the advice and guidance notes on remediation and replacement of DWWTS

Is there a grant available?

Check out this EPA webpage about septic tank grants