Half of all septic tanks pose water pollution risk
DOMESTIC drinking water supplies are being put at risk because of faulty septic tanks.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says that almost half of all tanks inspected are failing to meet minimum standards and that tanks situated alongside private wells are among the most likely to fail, putting homeowners' health at risk.
New regulations introduced in 2013 require local authorities to inspect tanks to ensure they are properly maintained and not posing a risk to human health and the environment.
The EPA said 987 inspections were completed in the 12 months to July 2014, which resulted in 476 failures.
More than half of all failures arose because tanks were not desludged. Of the systems which failed, 79pc are now compliant after householders addressed the problems.
"The inspections have, for the first time, allowed for the systematic collection of information on the condition of domestic waste water treatment systems," the EPA's director of Environmental Enforcement, Gerard O'Leary, said. "The results show that many of the failures could have been prevented. Inspections are now a routine part of local authority work."
Bluestream Waste Water Services in Wicklow says desludging costs between €220 and €250, and takes about an hour.
But the EPA says there is a worryingly low appreciation of the need to desludge systems.
Two out of every three homeowners had not sought information on how to properly maintain and operate their systems, which suggested there was a need for "greater engagement".
The inspection regime was introduced following an EU ruling, which found Ireland was not properly protecting water sources.
As many as 450,000 homeowners with tanks were required to register their details, but just 1,000 inspections a year are carried out.
The report shows that the highest failure rate is in Limerick, where 79pc of tanks failed, with the lowest in Waterford.
The EPA added that more than half of all sites where tanks were located alongside private wells failed to comply, putting drinking water at risk of contamination. In addition, 80pc of tanks 50 years or older failed the test. The EPA said that local authorities should take enforcement action against unregistered systems, and that the rate of inspections should continue.