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Sunday 21 September 2014

More than half of septic tanks fail to meet safety standards

Paul Melia, Environment Correspondent

Published 02/04/2014 | 02:30

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Jim Phibbs and Cathal Phibbs from Bluestream Waste Water Services.  Picture: Frank McGrath
Jim Phibbs and Cathal Phibbs from Bluestream Waste Water Services. Picture: Frank McGrath

MORE than half of all septic tanks are failing to meet standards because homeowners are not carrying out basic maintenance.

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The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says that 224 of 423 tanks inspected under a new regime, or 53pc of the total, failed to meet basic standards designed to protect water sources and human health.

The most common reason for failing is because the tanks are not being desludged annually. This process, which costs about €200, removes solids, fats and grease from the tanks and ensures they work properly.

The figures suggest that the vast majority of tanks would not pose a problem if they were correctly operated.

The regime was introduced last July after the European Commission ruled that Ireland had to introduce an inspection system to protect water sources.

Local authorities must complete 1,000 inspections a year, and an interim review of the system says that all will be completed by next July's deadline.

A total 449,109 septic tanks have been registered, and the remaining 10pc are being identified by local authorities to ensure compliance.

The figures show:

* A total of 423 inspections have been completed between July last year and February 28 this year across 22 councils – 199 passed and 224 failed.

* Five councils have completed all inspections.

* Another four – Donegal, Leitrim, Clare and Offaly – have yet to carry out any.

Septic tanks receive waste from toilets, dishwashers, showers and other household appliances. Sludge settles at the bottom of the tank, while fats and grease rise to the surface.

Bacteria in the tank helps treat the water, which then flows into a second chamber where the process is repeated. Finally, the water flows through an outflow pipe to a percolation area, where the treatment process is completed.

One expert said he was not surprised at the high failure rate, adding that about 20pc of homeowners regularly pumped their tanks.

Jim Phibbs, the owner of Bluestream Waste Water Services in Co Wicklow, which desludges tanks and installs new systems, said yearly desludging was necessary but that some tanks were too small to cope with modern demands.

Irish Independent

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