EPA Public Consultation: National Inspection Plan for Domestic Wastewater Treatment Systems

Recent legislation requires the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to establish a National Inspection Plan for domestic waste water treatment systems, including septic tanks.

  • The Inspection Plan is currently being developed and it is intended that a risk-based approach to inspections will commence in mid-2013.
  • In the interim, the EPA is consulting and engaging with the public on the likely approach to inspections and how people can prepare in advance.

The EPA will use a twin-track approach to inspection:

  • The first part will focus on engagement with the owners of domestic waste water treatment systems to explain to them their responsibilities and give them information and guidance on how to operate and maintain their systems.
  • This will then be followed by the inspection process itself.  The inspection regime will be pragmatic and risk-based to target resources where they are needed most and to deliver the best outcome for public health and the environment at the lowest possible cost.  The risk-based approach to inspection will focus resources initially on areas of high-risk, whether because of closeness to drinking water sources, or bathing water, or fisheries.  Other factors such as geography, topography, soil and so on will also be taken into account.

The EPA has developed a suite of information on its website about wastewater treatment systems for single houses.  This includes a short animated video about What you can do to maintain your waste water treatment system,an extensive list of Frequently Asked Questions and general guidance on wastewater treatment systems for single houses .

Homeowners will be notified at least 10 days in advance of an inspection.  Inspections will be carried out for the most part by local authority inspectors.  Inspections will focus on determining whether or not the system is posing a risk to human health or the environment.  In particular, it will check if the system is:

  • Not leaking;
  • Fit for purpose;
  • Not discharging to surface water without a licence;
  • Not accepting rainwater or clean surface water;
  • Properly operated and maintained;
  • De-sludged at appropriate intervals.

The discussion document Proposal for a National Inspection Plan for Domestic Waste Water Treatment Systems is available on the EPA website.

  • Interested parties and individuals are invited to submit comments in writing by emailing the EPA at dwwts@epa.ie, to be received by 31st October 2012.
  • Homeowners who are looking for information or have any concerns regarding the operation and maintenance of their systems should either contact their local authority or visit the EPA’s website.

ECOS Environmental Consultants Limited