Catchment News

Fixing septic tanks that fail inspection is a priority – EPA

The EPA today released the report Domestic Waste Water Treatment System Inspections 2020. This is a review of 809 inspections of septic tanks and other domestic waste water treatment systems in 2020.

  • Over half (54%) of septic tank systems failed inspection in 2020.
  • Three quarters of systems failing inspection since 2013 have been fixed, but failure to resolve older cases is a concern
  • Grants of up to €5,000 are available to fix systems
  • 54% (433) of the systems failed inspection because they were not built or maintained properly
  • 23% (182) of systems inspected were a risk to human health or the environment, as faulty systems can contaminate household wells and pollute rivers

Householders should ensure effluent from their septic tank is not ponding in their garden, going to nearby streams or contaminating their 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.

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

Local authorities issue advisory notices to householders when septic tanks fail inspection.  The report found there were 468 cases open more than two years at the end of 2020. The septic tank grant scheme, which was expanded in 2020, offers grants of €5,000 to assist in addressing malfunctioning systems.

It is important that householders fix septic tanks where problems are detected. There is a grant scheme available to assist householders to fix failing septic tanks. Local authorities should focus their efforts to resolve open cases to ensure human health and the environment are protected

Noel Byrne, EPA Programme Manager

Learn more:

The report, Domestic Waste Water Treatment System Inspections 2020, is available on the EPA’s website. 

You can downlead a plain English guide to checking if your septic tank system is working here:

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.