Galway has been designated one of the top high risk areas “in need of greatest protection” by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA ) which has launched its national plan for septic tank and waste water treatment system inspections and procedures.
The National Inspection Plan for Domestic Waste Water Treatment Systems 2013 was launched on Tuesday and outlines how many, and in what capacity, inspections are going to be carried out in each county with Galway homeowners set to receive the second highest number of inspections at 98, just behind Cork at 99 inspections. Other counties considered high risk include Donegal (80 ), Kerry (57 ), Clare (55 ), Wexford (53 ), Limerick (50 ), and Cavan (48 ).
The plan outlines how 1,000 inspections are to take place throughout the country commencing in July and will be followed by a review in 2014. In the plan the EPA identified areas of priority and set minimum inspection levels for each local authority. The inspections will be concentrated in areas where waste water discharges present a high risk to human health or the environment. The priority areas are based on levels of risk to sensitive water receptors such as drinking water sources, bathing waters, or pearl mussel beds. It is understood that homeowners will be notified of the inspection at least 10 days in advance by their local authority
Commenting on the plan, EPA director, Gerard O’Leary, said: “There are around 500,000 homes in Ireland with domestic waste water treatment systems – our goal is to have every single one of those working effectively. If treatment systems are not working properly they can pose significant risks to people’s health and to the environment. The National Inspection Plan initially focuses on a campaign to advise, educate, and help people to operate and maintain their systems. We want to increase the chances of treatment systems passing inspections as this will deliver the best outcome for public health and the environment. Inspections will begin later this year and will be concentrated in areas in need of greatest protection."
Meanwhile, Independent MEP for the North-West consituency Marian Harkin, has said that because of the relatively low number of septic tank inspections to be carried out, and their focus, it will mean a total cost to the State for remedial works where they arise will be a “very acceptable” €10 million, and that the Government should provide full funding for those with limited means.
Speaking yesterday Harkin said: “It seems obvious that it is the septic tanks with the most serious issues to be resolved that will be identified and requiring remediation. The recently announced grants scheme is totally inadequate to meet what could be the major works necessary to achieve compliance with EPA and local authority requirements.
“Logically it may be costly to achieve the outcome required by legislation, and by the environmental rights of the community. However, just as any wastewater problem in urban areas is fixed at no cost to householders those in rural areas deserve equal treatment. Literally billions of EU and Irish government funds have been invested in treatment plants for urban areas and pro-rata rural people deserve to have any seriously deficient individual treatment plants made operationally safe.
“If every one of the 1,000 treatment units to be inspected fail and require remedial works at, for instance, a cost of €10,000 each the total required of the Government would be €10 million. This cost, to finish an unnecessary controversy should be very acceptable. The Government should then move on to rectifying the major threat posed by deficient municipal waste plants to achieving the ‘good water’ target set down under the EU Water Framework Directive.”