More than half of septic tanks fail first inspections

More than half of the septic tanks inspected at people’s homes have failed the first round of new tests, environmental chiefs have revealed.

Some 224 of the 423 units examined by local authorities did not pass the reviews, with most fails because owners did not empty the tank by de-sludging or did not ensure it was properly operated and maintained.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said that leaks from 54 tanks were identified with unlicensed discharge to rivers or streams in 81 cases.

The review of country homes up and down the country warned that while it is too early to draw definitive conclusions about the state of septic tanks nationally, the environment and the health of people living near tanks that fail the test is being put at risk by the failures.

David Flynn, of the EPA’s office of environmental enforcement, said the leaks and unlicensed discharge were the more serious issues.

“Sometimes it’s quite obvious when an inspector goes on site – there’s an unpleasant odour or you are getting the pooling where water is lying in the garden or there’s water backing up the system in the house,” he said.

The EPA said that in 138 cases inspectors warned that the waste units were putting health and the environment in danger.

The most common issues were de-sludging, which affected 116 homes where waste matter was not removed as necessary once a year or every two years, and the operation and maintenance of the tanks, which was identified as the issue in 109 inspections.

Surface ponding, where waste water from the system is gathering in pools in the garden or grounds around the tank, was identified in 54 inspections.

The worst county for failures was Limerick with 41 out of 52 inspections; followed by Meath with 26 out 42; Cork with 18 out of 35; Kerry with 17 out of 26; and Tipperary 17 out of 29.

Mr Flynn added: “In some ways there’s good and bad news. It’s quite a reasonable level considering no-one has been looking at this for many decades.

“In certain extent people would install these systems and what is out of sight is out of mind and if it was working well from a plumbing point of view that’s fine. But what we are about is increasing awareness so people understand there’s a few simple steps people can take to put things right.”

The EPA 449,109 waste water treatment systems have been registered nationwide - 90% of all waste water treatment systems.

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