What are the septic tank regulations in Ireland?
In Ireland, many rural houses lack connection to the main sewer, instead, they have their own domestic wastewater treatment system to collect, treat and discharge their wastewater. Septic tanks are a type of wastewater treatment system along with wastewater treatment plants.
As the wastewater collected comes from toilets, showers, sinks, washing machines, dishwashers, etc., one can find a number of different pollutants contained within. For this reason, in cases where the domestic wastewater treatment system is not designed correctly or appropriately operated, the effluent can pollute the local environment. Such issues result in damaged wells or water sources and cause problems for public health.
What are your responsibilities?
As part of the septic tank regulations in Ireland, homeowners have a duty of care (Water Services Act 2007). What is meant by this is that their domestic wastewater treatment system cannot cause a risk to human health, to the environment or create a nuisance through odours. In addition to the 2009 EPA Code of Practice, the 2012 regulations (Water Services (Amendment) Act 2012) set the performance standards which include maintenance and de-sludging requirements.
Part of the septic tank regulations in Ireland includes the registration and inspection of septic tanks or domestic wastewater treatment systems. Therefore, as a homeowner, if you have a domestic wastewater treatment system, you must register it with your local authority and pay a registration fee of €50.
How to register:
Alternatively, you can request a form from your local authority, public library or Citizens Information Centre.
Registration of an existing wastewater treatment system
The deadline for registration of a domestic wastewater treatment system was February 1, 2013. However, if you haven’t registered yet, check www.protectourwater.ie for more information.
Registration of a new wastewater treatment system
Septic tank regulations in Ireland state you must register a new system within 90 days of being commissioned. Please note that you do not have to record replacements of previously registered systems separately.
To maintain your domestic wastewater treatment system, septic tank or wastewater treatment plant, you need to know where its located. This knowledge needs to also include the percolation area, drainage field or secondary or tertiary treatment plant.
You should also make sure of the following:
- Usage and maintenance of the system are fit for purpose and fully operational.
- Make sure the system does not pollute (leaking waste or discharging waste) directly into the ground or water source.
- Rainwater (roof or surface) shouldn’t enter the wastewater treatment plant.
- Don’t forget to de-sludge (empty) at recommended intervals. Please refer to the manufacturer guidelines as intervals will vary depending on the septic tank/wastewater treatment plant capacity and the number of people living in the house. De-sludging should always be carried out by an authorised contractor, and you should keep the receipt for five years.
Septic tank regulations in Ireland, what to expect?
The development of a national inspection plan, as well as reporting, is the responsibility of the EPA. These inspections concentrate on the areas with a high risk to the environment or public health. Checks are also carried out in lower risk areas at a lower rate.
Local authorities organise the inspections and will notify you if one is to be carried out. The inspectors are appointed and approved by the EPA. They carry identification and produce it to householders on request.
During the inspection, checks are carried out on the following:
- If the system is registered
- If it is leaking
- If the components are in working order
- If the effluent is ponding on the surface of the ground
- If the wastewater treatment system is discharging directly to surface water without a license
- If the effluent is treated adequately or being released directly to groundwater
- If rainwater or clean surface water is entering the system
- If the wastewater treatment system is being operated and maintained properly
- If it has been de-sludged
- If the system adversely affects the environment due to poor management
A system working correctly:
If you correctly manage your system and everything is working efficiently, a requirement from your side, just keep up the excellent work. You will receive a copy of the report confirming compliance.
A system requiring improvements:
If the inspector finds that improvements are necessary, you will be informed. You will also receive an advisory notice from your local authority within 21 days, requiring you to improve the maintenance of your system or to upgrade or remediate it.
You can read more about What to expect from a septic tank inspection (pdf).
If you have to carry out remedial work, you may be eligible for a grant. The grant is means-tested, you must have had your wastewater treatment system registered by the February 1, 2013 to be eligible. For more information about the grants, visit the Irish Statute Book’s website.
If under the septic tank regulations in Ireland, your system requires an upgrade or remedial work, contact the Tricel team to discuss your options. Whether it is replacing your septic tanks or upgrading to a wastewater treatment plant, we will be happy to help.
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