How one county tackled its problems
CAVAN County Council is the only local authority in the State to have an inspection regime for septic tanks.
The system was introduced in 2004 to help improve water quality, and about one in three owners of septic tanks has had their system assessed.
"It was unusual for a local authority to bring in an inspection regime," senior engineer Peter Cork said. "There are a lot of lakes and rivers in the county and back in the 1990s we had some bad press about water quality.
"The main sources of pollution were industrial discharges, waste-water treatment plants, intensive farming and septic tanks. We made significant headway on most of these sources through licensing and enforcement, but we also introduced bylaws requiring everybody not connected to a public sewer to have their septic tank assessed."
To justify the introduction of the bylaws, officials assessed 200 properties. One in three failed to pass an inspection.
A list of approved assessors was produced for households, with an inspection costing about €100.
"Typically in Cavan, if the system wasn't working, waste would probably be seeping into a drain or the garden would be sodden," Mr Cork said.
"We looked at this as an operation that was going to go on for years with a view to getting the entire county sorted out. Up to 2009, about 3,500 households sent in assessments.
"But these people would probably have been the good citizens of the county and were less likely to have problems. In some cases, problems would have been fixed prior to the assessment. For this reason the failure rate with the assessed systems would be lower than expected -- less than 20pc (of those assessed) would have failed," Mr Cork added.
"We would quite honestly say that our bylaws have been very successful."