EPA welcomes expanded septic tank grant scheme

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has welcomed a new septic tank grant scheme following its report that half of domestic waste water treatment systems failed inspection in 2019.

The EPA reported that of the 1,160 inspections carried out on septic tanks and other domestic waste water treatments last year, half of the inspections failed.

According to the EPA, a “lack of maintenance and desludging was identified as a key issue”.

Dangers of septic tanks

The government has expanded its septic tank grant scheme which according to the director of the EPA’s office of environmental enforcement, Dr. Tom Ryan, will “broaden the availability of grants and increases the maximum grant available which is welcomed.”

Dr. Ryan also outlined the dangers of not maintaining a septic tank, with the hope that the newly expanded grant will help health and safety measures.

If you do not maintain your septic tank, it can contaminate your own or your neighbour’s well, putting your health at risk and that of your family and neighbours.

“It may also pollute your local stream or river. You can take simple steps to maintain your septic tank by cleaning it out regularly and by making sure it is not leaking, ponding or discharging to ditches,” he said.

Local authority inspections

In its inspections, local authorities identified more serious issues with nearly 300 systems that were found to be a risk to human health or the environment.

The EPA also reported that the grant scheme for septic tanks has recently been “expanded to cover specific areas where work is being focused to improve water quality under the national River Basin Management Plan”. This means that more people will qualify for a grant.

The EPA also found that 27% of systems that failed inspections during 2013-2019 are “still not fixed” and local authorities need to “take action to make sure householders fix systems that fail”.

EPA senior inspector Noel Byrne added:

“It is important that householders fix systems where problems are detected and be aware that they can pose a serious health risk,” he said.

“While there has been an improvement in the number of systems fixed, there are still many systems where faults are not addressed over a number of years. This requires increased engagement and enforcement by local authorities to address remaining failures.”

According to the EPA report:

  • There are an estimated half a million septic tanks and other domestic waste water treatment systems in Ireland;
  • Half of the 1,160 septic tank systems inspected in 2019 failed;
  • Householders with private wells are particularly vulnerable to pollution from faulty septic tanks;
  • 27% of systems that failed inspections during 2013-2019 are still not fixed;
  • The government’s expanded septic tank grant scheme will help more householders fix faulty systems.

Grants of up to €5,000 are available through the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government to fix domestic waste water treatment facilities.