UP TO 500,000 homeowners can expect their septic tank to be inspected from next July.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced details of a national inspection plan with 120,000 homeowners who refused to register their tanks among the first to be inspected.
Just 1,000 inspections will take place in the first year of the new regime, but the number is likely to increase.
The inspection regime follows a ruling from the European Court of Justice last December that Ireland was not doing enough to protect groundwater.
The EPA said the aim of the inspection regime was to ensure that systems were working effectively and that risks to the environment were eliminated.
Septic tanks process waste-water from houses, including water from washing machines and toilets, and if the water is not treated effectively it can pollute groundwater and pose risks to human health.
“There are around 500,000 homes in Ireland with domestic waste water treatment systems – our goal is to have every single one of those working effectively,” EPA director Gerard O’Leary said.
“If treatment systems are not working properly they can pose significant risks to people’s health and to the environment. The National Inspection Plan initially focuses on a campaign to advise, educate and help people to operate and maintain their systems. We want to increase the chances of treatment systems passing inspections as this will deliver the best outcome for public health and the environment. Inspections will begin later this year and will be concentrated in areas in need of greatest protection.”
Inspections will be targeted in areas at high-risk, including bathing and drinking water sources and pearl mussel beds.
Homeowners will be notified of an inspection at least ten days in advance by their local authority.
The inspections will focus on determining whether or not the treatment system is working properly, and will include checking to see if the system is registered, is not leaking and if it has been properly maintained.
The EPA said owners of domestic waste water treatment systems who have registered their system, and maintain it, do not need to take further action.