Catchment News

EPA welcomes new septic tank grant scheme as over 50% of systems fail inspection

The Environmental Protection Agency today reported on 1,160 Local Authority inspections of septic tanks and other domestic waste water treatment systems in 2019.

The EPA found that more than half of the systems failed inspection. A lack of maintenance and desludging was identified as a key issue. The Local Authorities identified more serious issues with nearly 300 systems where they were found to be a risk to human health or the environment.

The EPA also reported that the grant scheme for septic tanks has recently been expanded to cover specific areas where work is being focused to improve water quality under the national River Basin Management Plan. This means that more people will qualify for a grant.

“If you do not maintain your septic tank, it can contaminate your own or your neighbour’s well, putting your health at risk and that of your family and neighbours. It may also pollute your local stream or river.

You can take simple steps to maintain your septic tank by cleaning it out regularly and by making sure it is not leaking, ponding or discharging to ditches.

The Government’s expanded septic tank grant scheme broadens the availability of grants and increases the maximum grant available which is welcomed.”

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

The EPA also found that 27% of systems that failed inspections during 2013-2019 are still not fixed and Local Authorities need to take action to make sure householders fix systems that fail.

“It is important that householders fix systems where problems are detected and be aware that they can pose a serious health risk.

While there has been an improvement in the number of systems fixed, there are still many systems where faults are not addressed over a number of years. This requires increased engagement and enforcement by Local Authorities to address remaining failures”.

Noel Byrne, EPA Senior Inspector

The report, Domestic Waste Water Treatment Systems Inspections and Enforcement 2019, is available on the EPA’s website.  

Learn more:

This plain English booklet tells you how to check and maintain your septic tank.

Domestic waste water treatment systems are used by rural householders to treat sewage. There are nearly half a million systems in Ireland and most (90%) are septic tanks.

The EPA is responsible for the development of a National Inspection Plan for domestic waste water treatment systems. The current plan covers 2018-2021. Under the plan, Local Authorities are required to undertake a minimum of 1,000 inspections each year, distributed based on risk across the country.

Local Authorities and the EPA have made information available to the public on the inspection process and on maintenance of systems on their websites.
Grants of up to €5,000 are available to fix DWWTS. Details of the grants scheme and Terms & Conditions are available from the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government.

In summary the grant is available for systems:

  • that fail under the National Inspection Plan;
  • that are located in High Status Objective Catchment Areas identified in the River Basin Management Plan;
  • where they are identified by local authorities in Priority Areas for Action (areas where action to address water quality is being focussed under the River Basin Management Plan)

The Department also provides a grant for addressing issues with household wells: Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government.

Grants are administered by Local Authorities (City & County Councils). Householders should contact their Local Authority Rural Water Section if they require further information or wish to enquire about an application.

Media contacts:

Further information: Niamh Hatchell/ Emily Williamson, EPA Media Relations Office 053-9170770 (24 hours) or

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.