■ Con­cern as sep­tic tank own­ers source drink­ing wa­ter from wells

Irish Examiner - - Front Page - Eve­lyn Ring

Half of home­own­ers’ sep­tic tanks failed to meet the re­quired stan­dard last year, the En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency has found.

Half of home­own­ers’ sep­tic tanks failed to meet the re­quired stan­dard last year, it has emerged.

The En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency found that 49% of sep­tic tanks were not up to stan­dard last year, up from 45% in 2015.

There is a par­tic­u­lar con­cern about the health risks be­cause many sep­tic tank own­ers source their wa­ter from their well.

Al­most three out of 10 (29%) in­spec­tion fail­ures were due to the risk to hu­man health or the en­vi­ron­ment.

Last year, 27% of all in­spec­tions took place on sites with pri­vate wells and more than half (51%) of the treat­ment sys­tems failed to meet the re­quired stan­dard.

“The fail­ure by home­own­ers to main­tain and op­er­ate a sep­tic tank sys­tem ad­e­quately can pose a health and en­vi­ron­men­tal risk through the pol­lu­tion of pri­vate drink­ing wa­ter wells or wa­ter­courses,” the EPA warns.

“Home­own­ers maybe putting them­selves, their fam­i­lies and their neigh­bours at risk of ill health if they do not main­tain their sep­tic tank sys­tem ad­e­quately,” said Dar­ragh Page of the EPA of­fice of en­vi­ron­men­tal en­force­ment.

Op­er­a­tion and main­te­nance and the lack of desludg­ing con­tinue to be the main rea­sons that sep­tic tank sys­tems fail in­spec­tions. A quar­ter of sep­tic tanks failed due to own­ers not re­mov­ing sludge build-up,

A lo­cal au­thor­ity can pros­e­cute a home­owner if they fail to com­ply with an ad­vi­sory no­tice where fail­ures are iden­ti­fied.

How­ever, of all the in­spec­tions un­der­taken last year, there is cur­rently just one pend­ing pros­e­cu­tion open against a home­owner.

The EPA said lo­cal au­thor­i­ties should pri­ori­tise the en­force­ment of those no­tices where sys­tem fail­ures pose a risk to hu­man health and the en­vi­ron­ment.

The agency is re­spon­si­ble for the de­vel­op­ment of a na­tional in­spec­tion plan for the do­mes­tic waste­water treat­ment sys­tem. The plan re­quires lo­cal au­thor­i­ties to un­der­take a min­i­mum of 1,000 in­spec­tions of do­mes­tic waste­water treat­ment sys­tems each year.

The EPA points out that Sligo County Coun­cil did not un­der­take any new in­spec­tions last year.

It has been told to ad­dress any short­falls by the end of the year.

Warn­ing let­ters were is­sued to other lo­cal au­thor­i­ties who failed to reach their min­i­mum tar­get num­bers.

The num­ber of ad­vi­sory no­tices is­sued last year in­creased by 544 (11.5%).

How­ever ,473 ad­vi­sory warn­ings is­sued over the last three years are still open – 18 since 2013, and 451 are open be­yond their pro­posed res­o­lu­tion date.

The EPA’s re­port also shows that just 54% of sites that failed an in­spec­tion are now com­pli­ant fol­low­ing re­me­dial works. Al­most one in four checks (23%) were on un­reg­is­tered sites.

More than half (53%) of in­spec­tion fail­ures were due to op­er­a­tion and main­te­nance and desludg­ing is­sues.

The EPA says desludg­ing is a min­i­mum main­te­nance re­quire­ment and is rel­a­tively in­ex­pen­sive to un­der­take.

There is a grant scheme avail­able to home­own­ers, ad­min­is­tered by the Depart­ment of Hous­ing, Planning and Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment, for the up­grade of their do­mes­tic waste­water treat­ment sys­tems but this does not cover main­te­nance or desludg­ing.

Lo­cal au­thor­i­ties and the EPA pro­vide in­for­ma­tion on the in­spec­tion process and main­te­nance of treat­ment sys­tems on their web­sites.

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