One in three Cavan septic tanks failed inspection last year

Almost one in three septic tanks tested in Cavan failed inspection last year, but this was much better than the national failure rate of 53% for the period.

The figures emerged as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a report on Domestic Waste Water Treatment Systems Inspections in 2021.

This reports shows there were 1,147 inspections of septic tanks and other domestic waste water treatment systems completed by local authorities in 2021. Fifty-three per cent (604) of the systems failed inspection because they were not built or maintained properly. Twenty-nine per cent (337) of systems inspected were considered a risk to human health or the environment, because faulty systems can contaminate household drinking water wells and pollute rivers.

In Cavan, a total of 37 waste water treatment systems were inspected, with a failure rate of 32% reported. Cavan County Council was required to inspect at least 32 tanks.

The report also showed that between 2013 and 2021, 127 septic tanks were examined and, at the end of 2021, 80% of those that failed had been fixed.

Cavan performed well. It was named among 14 local authorities with a higher rate of fixed systems.

Neighbouring counties Meath and Leitrim didn't fare so well with failure rates of 94% and 89% respectively. Dun Laoghaire County Council had a 100% failure rate, but there was only one septic tank inspection there.

In Westmeath, there were 23 inspections, with a 26% failure rate. In Monaghan, there were 43 inspections with a failure rate of 44%.

Another significant finding was that Roscommon had the lowest percentage of failed septic tanks fixed in the country. Of 200 septic tanks in the county that had failed the inspection since the system came into place in 2013, only 45% had been remedied by the end of 2021.

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 drinking water well, or your local stream, putting your health at risk and that of your family and neighbours. Some of these problems may go unnoticed unless householders check their septic tank and 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. Where problems are detected, householders need to take the necessary steps to fix their septic tanks.”

Local authorities issue advisory notices to householders setting out what is required to fix septic tanks that fail inspection. The report found there were 533 cases where issues notified to householders over two years previously had still not been addressed. The septic tank grant scheme, which was expanded in 2020, offers grants of €5,000 to assist in addressing malfunctioning systems.

Noel Byrne, EPA Programme Manager said: "The need to fix failing septic tanks has been repeatedly highlighted by the EPA as a concern. It is unacceptable that over 500 failed septic tanks are not fixed more than two years after inspection. Over half of these involve sewage ponding in gardens and discharging to ditches and streams, which cannot be allowed to continue. Local authorities must increase their enforcement effort to ensure failed systems are fixed.”