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Over half of septic tanks failed inspections in 2021, EPA says

Under a third of septic tanks were also considered a risk to human health and the environment by the EPA.

A septic tank being cleaned
A septic tank being cleaned
Image: Alamy Stock Photo

THE ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION Agency (EPA) has said that over half of domestic septic tanks failed inspection in 2021, with just under a third posing a risk to human health or the environment.

Just under a third of the septic tanks inspected were considered a risk to both human health and to the environment, with it possible for faulty systems to contaminate both drinking water wells and pollute rivers.

The EPA has said that the septic tank systems failed their inspections due to not being built or maintained properly.

There were a total of 1,147 inspections carried out by local authorities in 2021, with 604 of the septic tanks inspected failing.

Of the failed tanks, 337 systems were considered a risk to human health or the environment.

Dr. Tom Ryan, Director of the EPA’s Office of Environmental Enforcement said that people’s health could be at risk if septic tanks are not properly maintained.

“If you do not maintain your septic tank, it can contaminate your own or your neighbour’s drinking water well, or your local stream, putting your health at risk and that of your family and neighbours. Some of these problems may go unnoticed unless householders check their septic tank and drinking water well,” said Ryan.

“Householders should visually check their septic tank and get their well tested at least annually to satisfy themselves that their septic tank is not posing a risk to the health of their families, their neighbours and the environment.”

The report does highlight however that three quarters of failing septic tank systems have been fixed.

  • Read more here on how to support a major Noteworthy project to examine if our septic tanks are being managed correctly.

There are almost half a million septic tank systems in Ireland, which are used by rural homeowners to treat sewage.

The EPA report also found that there were 533 cases where local authorities had issued notices to households where septic tanks were malfunctioning, but issues were not addressed after two years.

Noel Byrne, the EPA’s Programme Manager called it “unacceptable” that over 500 tanks had not been fixed in two years.

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“The need to fix failing septic tanks has been repeatedly highlighted by the EPA as a concern. It is unacceptable that over 500 failed septic tanks are not fixed more than two years after inspection.

“Over half of these involve sewage ponding in gardens and discharging to ditches and streams, which cannot be allowed to continue. Local authorities must increase their enforcement effort to ensure failed systems are fixed.”

Speaking on Morning Ireland, Byrne said that the failure to resolve all faulty septic tank cases was becoming a concern and encouraged households to get their water wells tested regularly as well as keep their tanks well maintained.

“Get your well tested annually to make sure that there’s no contamination issue or anything arising from your septic tank.

“Good maintenance can often prevent any problems. So you should get your tank desludged every three to four years,” Byrne said.

About the author:

Tadgh McNally

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