Last year, 48% of household septic tanks inspected by local authorities failed the inspection, more than half due to a lack of de-sludging.

New figures from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) show that the first year of National Inspection Plan for septic tanks shows that almost half of household septic tanks fail inspection.

It says that many of the failures could be avoided by householders taking simple steps to de-sludge and maintain their treatment system. The 12-month review, from July 2013 to June 2014 found that:

  • 987 inspections were carried out by local authority inspectors;
  • 52% of domestic waste water treatment systems passed inspection;
  • More than half the failures were due to lack of de-sludging; and,
  • 79% of the inspected systems are now compliant with the regulations, following remediation work by householders.

Gerard O’Leary, Director, EPA’s Office of Environmental Enforcement said, the inspections have, for the first time, allowed for the systematic collection of information on the condition of domestic waste water treatment systems in Ireland.

“The results show that many of the failures could have been prevented. Inspections are now a routine part of local authority work.”

Meanwhile, David Flynn, Programme Manager of EPA’s Office of Environmental Enforcement said there are simple steps that homeowners can take, have the sludge emptied from your tank on a regular basis using a permitted contractor, retain the receipt, and if you have a package treatment system it needs a regular scheduled service.

The most common reasons for failure related to de-sludging and/or operation and maintenance, the EPA said.

These issues are related to the behaviour of the householder rather than being faults with the system, it says, and the works required to remedy these issues do not qualify for grant assistance.

The EPA is now inviting submissions on the proposals for the next Plan, which is proposed to cover the period 2015-2017.