independent

Saturday 1 November 2014

A SEPTIC TANK NIGHTMARE

INSPECTIONS WILL COME TOO LATE FOR ONE LONG-SUFFERING COUPLE

DAVID MEDCALF

Published 15/01/2013 | 10:16

Sarah and Pat Proudfoot lift the lid on their septic tank disaster.

THE NEW septic tank charge and the regime of inspection which will follow are the least of Pat and Sarah Proudfoot's worries just at the moment. Their worrying experience and the unresolved difficulties at their home in Monamolin is just one example of the many difficulties and environmental disasters likely to come to light across Wexford whenever the inspectors set about their work.

The Proudfoots' dormer bungalow presents a picture of idyllic rural living to passersby but the reality is that they are beset by a slowly rising tide of nasty smelling waste water. The ground at the bottom of their garden is so saturated that the reeds are beginning to show through the once immaculate lawn while their pet Scottish terrier has been laid low by a series of illnesses, blamed on the stagnant sewage.

The Proudfoot family moved into their brand new home in the Wexford countryside in 2003. Like most house owners, they were blissfully ignorant of the technical details of what happens after they flush their toilet or pull the plug on the kitchen sink.

For eight years their lack of knowledge was no problem - and then the wet spot near their children's play area began to show through.

A year on, sons Ross and Bradley no longer use the play area. Meanwhile, their father Pat has become an expert in the mechanics of domestic waste water treatment.

Give him a sheet of paper and he will rapidly cover it in rough sketches of pipelines, French drains and filtration beds. He is up to speed on the difference in soakage capability between ordinary soil and the sticky Macamore marl such as is found in and around Monamolin.

And Pat has also learned that the waste water processing system shown on the plans when he bought the house (and for which planning permission was granted) is not the same as the malfunctioning arrangement currently drowning his lawn. He now realises that there should be a pipe leading into a nearby stream. No such pipe appears to exist. Instead, the outflow from the house is gradually, inexorably backing up, trapped in the unabsorbent Macamore marl.

With nothing going out the far end, the under pressure septic tank has given up the ghost and it now has to be emptied every four months or so. The worried householder calculates that at least €9,000 is required to rectify matters.

Though now back employed as a transport logistics manager, after a period out of work, he certainly does not have the money. Nor does he have the wastewater discharge licence from the EPA which may be required.

The Proudfoots feel very let down. Let down that the plans do not appear to have been followed, and let down by Wexford County Council's monitoring system which was incapable of policing the construction boom which was gathering pace at the time that they were moving to Monamolin.

'You wouldn't see that in a Third World Country,' says Pat ruefully as he looks out across the mess. 'I can't let my kids out there. I cannot even cut the grass. In summer the smell is atrocious.'

Camolin-based local politician Cllr. Declan MacPartlin says he is totally in favour of septic tank registration. However, he feels that, if the Proudfoot family lived in a town and experienced such problems, then the matter would almost certainly be sorted out by the local authority.

He suggests that a similar approach should be taken in the countryside: 'At the end of the day, people like this deserve to be helped out of their predicament.'

There is no guarantee that they will be given any such help.

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