Catchment News

EPA launches the report on Domestic Waste Water Treatment Systems Inspections for 2021 – the delays in fixing failed septic tanks are unacceptable

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30 June 2022: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released the report on Domestic Waste Water Treatment Systems Inspections in 2021. This is a report of the 1,147 inspections of septic tanks and other domestic waste water treatment systems completed by local authorities in 2021.

  • Over half (53%) of septic tank systems failed inspection in 2021
  • Three quarters of systems failing inspection have been fixed, but delays in resolving older failures is a concern
  • Faulty septic tank systems are a risk to people’s health and the environment
  • The National Inspection Plan 2022-2026 requires increased inspections and enforcement to ensure failed systems are fixed

Fifty-three per cent (604) of the systems failed inspection because they were not built or maintained properly. Twenty-nine per cent (337) of systems inspected were considered a risk to human health or the environment, because faulty systems can contaminate household drinking water wells and pollute rivers.

If you do not maintain your septic tank, it can contaminate your own or your neighbour’s drinking water well, or your local stream, putting your health at risk and that of your family and neighbours. Some of these problems may go unnoticed unless householders check their septic tank and drinking water well. Householders should visually check their septic tank and get their well tested at least annually to satisfy themselves that their septic tank is not posing a risk to the health of their families, their neighbours and the environment. Where problems are detected, householders need to take the necessary steps to fix their septic tanks.

Dr Tom Ryan, EPA Director of Environmental Enforcement

Local authorities issue advisory notices to householders setting out what is required to fix septic tanks that fail inspection. The report found there were 533 cases where issues notified to householders over two years previously had still not been addressed. The septic tank grant scheme, which was expanded in 2020, offers grants of €5,000 to assist in addressing malfunctioning systems.

The need to fix failing septic tanks has been repeatedly highlighted by the EPA as a concern. It is unacceptable that over 500 failed septic tanks are not fixed more than two years after inspection. Over half of these involve sewage ponding in gardens and discharging to ditches and streams, which cannot be allowed to continue. Local authorities must increase their enforcement effort to ensure failed systems are fixed.

Noel Byrne, EPA Programme Manager

Learn more:

The report, Domestic Waste Water Treatment Systems Inspections in 2021, is available on the EPA’s website.

The National Inspection Plan for Domestic Waste Water Treatment Systems 2022 – 2026 was published in 2021. The plan increases inspections from 1,000 to 1,200 from 2023 onwards. Inspections will be focused near rivers where there is greater risk to water quality, and areas with shallow soils where there is greater risk to household wells.

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 4,829 water bodies, looking at trends and changes, determining which waterbodies are at risk and what could be causing this, and drafting environmental objectives and measures 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 that will be implemented after public consultation and sign off by the Minister.