Seventy-eight per cent of septic tanks in Mayo inspected during the period from 2017-2018 failed their inspection, according to the latest report by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA ). This was the hightest failure rate in the country, according to the report, with Roscommon the next highest on 65 per cent and both Leitrim and Wexford having failure rates of 63 per cent.
Septic tanks are generally a feature in rural Ireland where one-off housing is widespread, whereas in urban towns and cities, dwellings are connected to local authority sewerage treatment plants.
Mayo had the fifth highest number of inspections with 169 carried out, the county with the biggest number of inspections was Wexford which had 302 inspections carried out and a failure rate of 63 per cent; next in the number of inspections was Donegal with 230, then Galway county with 197 followed by Cork with 172. The average failure rate per county was 48 per cent.
According to the report the local authority was required to carry out 122 inspections over the time period, but they actually carried out 169 inspections of septic tanks in the county - with almost 80 per cent of those failing the test. In relation to septic tanks that had failed their testing between 2013 and 2018 the report found that 243 of the sceptic tanks inspected in Mayo had failed and 56 per cent of those that had not passed had the defects repaired and were functioning properly.
The EPA's report covered 2,000 sceptic tanks nationally and found that - nearly half of the systems failed inspection because they were not built or maintained properly. Faulty systems can contaminate household wells and pollute rivers. Householders should avail of the proposed expanded grant scheme when it becomes available, to address malfunctioning septic tanks, the EPA recommended.
Commenting on the report, Dr Tom Ryan, director of the EPA’s Office of Environmental Enforcement, said: “If you do not maintain your septic tank, it can contaminate your own or your neighbour’s well or your local stream, putting your health at risk and that of your family and neighbours. You can take simple steps to maintain your septic tank by making sure it is not leaking, ponding or discharging to ditches and by cleaning it out regularly.”
The report found that nearly one-third of systems that failed inspections during 2013-2018 are still not fixed and that local authorities need to take appropriate measures to ensure householders fix systems that fail inspection.
Said Noel Byrne, senior scientist in the EPA’s Office of Environmental Enforcement: “It is important that householders fix systems where problems are detected. To improve water quality, the government’s proposed expanded septic tank grant scheme, due to be launched later this year, will increase the maximum grant aid available to €5,000 and remove the means test requirements.”
The full report, Domestic Waste Water Treatment Systems 2017 and 2018, is available on the EPA’s website - https://www.epa.ie/pubs/reports/water/wastewater/domesticwastewatertreatmentsystems2017-2018nip.html.