Catchment News

EPA: Failure to fix faulty septic tanks is a risk to human health and the environment, and can’t continue

9th May 2024: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today released the report on Domestic Waste Water Treatment System Inspections 2023 which details the findings of septic tank inspections completed by local authorities in 2023. Of the 1,189 septic tanks inspected, 45 per cent (532) failed because they were not built or maintained properly.

Domestic waste water treatment systems, mostly septic tanks, are used by householders to treat sewage. There are nearly half a million systems in Ireland. The EPA’s National Inspection Plan 2022-2026 has identified the number of inspections that need to be completed, particularly near rivers and in areas where septic tanks are co-located with household drinking water wells. Local authorities are required to complete a minimum of 1,200 inspections annually as part of their implementation of the plan.

“Faulty septic tanks are a risk to human health and the environment and must be fixed. The EPA, through the National Inspection Plan, has identified rivers and areas where household drinking water wells are most at risk of contamination by faulty septic tanks. Local authority inspections are targeted in these areas. It is critical that householders protect their family’s health and the environment by fixing the problems identified, drawing on the enhanced grants now available.” 

Dr Tom Ryan, Director of the EPA’s Office of Environmental Enforcement

Where septic tanks fail inspection, local authorities issue advisory notices to householders setting out what is required to fix the problem. The EPA report found that there were 576 cases where issues notified to householders over two years previously had still not been addressed. 

The grant schemes for remediation of septic tanks were changed at the start of 2024 to increase the amount from €5,000 to €12,000 and remove the requirement to have registered the septic tank in 2013. This presents a significant opportunity for householders to fix their septic tanks and resolve open advisory notices.  

“It is unacceptable that the number septic tanks left un-fixed for more than two years continues to rise. Greater enforcement is needed by local authorities to ensure failed systems are fixed. Where faulty septic tanks are not being fixed, particularly given the availability of the enhanced grant scheme, local authorities need to use their enforcement powers to protect the environment and public health.” 

Noel Byrne, EPA Programme Manager

The National Inspection Plan for Domestic Waste Water Treatment Systems 2022 – 2026 was published by the EPA in 2021. The plan requires a minimum of 1,200 inspections from 2023 onwards. There was a shortfall in inspections by five local authorities in 2023 and these need to be completed in 2024. The EPA issued legal directions to make up for shortfalls in inspections by Waterford County Council in 2022 and to Galway County Council in 2023.

Learn more:

The report, Domestic Waste Water Treatment System Inspections 2023, is available on the EPA’s website.  

Who is involved?

Quite simply, everyone in Ireland has a role to play. This can be from something as simple as making sure you don’t pollute your local stream, or a local community working together to establish a Rivers Trust to enhance the rivers and lakes in their area, to a Government Department or Agency helping a Minister implement a new policy to help protect and enhance all our water bodies.

This website has been developed and is maintained by the Environmental Protection Agency, and is a collaboration between the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Local Authority Waters Programme.


Local Authority Waters Programme

The Local Authority Waters Programme coordinates the efforts of local authorities and other public bodies in the implementation of the River Basin Management Plan, and supports local community and stakeholder involvement in managing our natural waters, for everyone’s benefit.


Environmental Protection Agency

The EPA is responsible for coordinating the monitoring, assessment and reporting on the status of our 4,842 water bodies, looking at trends and changes, determining which waterbodies are at risk and what could be causing this, and drafting environmental objectives for each.


Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage

The Department is responsible for making sure that the right policies, regulations and resources are in place to implement the Water Framework Directive, and developing a River Basin Management Plan and Programme of Measures to protect and restore our waters.