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  Home / Environment & Waste / Septic Tanks

Septic Tanks

Registration & Inspections of Septic Tanks

Reasons for introduction of Registration & Inspections of Domestic Wastewater Treatment Systems;

The  Water Services (Amendment) Act 2012 provides for the introduction of a registration and inspection system for domestic wastewater treatment systems (DWWTSs), including septic tanks and similar systems.  It was introduced to address the European Court of Justice ruling against Ireland in October 2009, and even more importantly, to protect ground and surface water quality (particularly drinking water sources) from the risks posed by malfunctioning systems.

Registration of domestic wastewater treatment systems;
The registration fee payable is ?50. The fee is intended to cover the costs to the water services authorities of administering the registers and of managing the risk-based inspections to be carried out.  The legislation provides that those liable to register must have done so on or before 1st February 2013.  However, registration remains open and householders who have not yet registered should do so as soon as possible ? there are no late payment fees.   It is an offence under the 2012 Act for a householder not to register and the penalty, on conviction, is a fine of up to ?5,000.  

The new legislation has been framed to minimise the impact on householders and there will be no inspection charge.  The basic standard to be met by all domestic wastewater treatment systems is that they do not cause a risk to human health or the environment.  Regulations also provide for the proper operation and maintenance of treatment systems and set out de-sludging requirements

National Inspection Plan 2013;
The  Water Services (Amendment) Act 2012requires the EPA to produce a National Inspection Plan.  The Plan outlines the approach to be taken with respect to inspections.  The Plan sets out a two pronged approach, focusing on raising owner awareness and responsibility, and on the inspection process.

Public Awareness Campaign;
The first strand of the Inspection Plan is a national public awareness campaign to promote best practice relating to the operation and maintenance of DWWTSs. The campaign will be rolled out by Water Services Authorities prior to the initiation of targeted risk based inspections.

This campaign will inform DWWTS owners of the role they can play to protect their health, that of their neighbours, and the environment. Owners will be made aware of the simple steps they can take to properly operate and maintain their system as well as raising awareness as to the health implications where a DWWTS isn?t working properly. The campaign should ensure that those who are responsible for DWWTSs are provided with authoritative and accessible advice so that they can protect their health and that of their family, neighbours, and the environment. 

Inspections of Septic Tanks
The second strand of the plan involves carrying out risk based inspections.
All areas of the country are liable to inspection, with priority being given to areas where water quality (particularly drinking water) is most at risk from pollution by on-site waste water treatment systems.  The Plan contains details of risk criteria used and the minimum number of inspections (per county) to be carried out in its first year of implementation. 

Why are they being carried out?
Inspections are being carried out to make sure that DWWTSs do not pose a risk to human health or the environment.  Owners of DWWTSs are obliged to properly operate and maintain their systems as required under the Water Services Act, 2007 and Water Services (Amendment) Act 2012.

How many inspections will be carried out and will I be inspected?
Local authorities are initially required to carry out a minimum of 1,000 inspections of DWWTSs across the whole country from July 2013 to July 2014 so not everyone will be inspected immediately. Cork County Council will determine the areas where inspections will be carried out at a local basis.  They will use the risk information and locations of sensitive receptors such as bathing waters and drinking water supplies to prioritise the areas of inspection. If you want to know the risk category for your area you can access the EPA's ENVISION GIS maps.
Cork County Council is required to carry out a minimum of 99 inspections under the National Inspection Plan between 1st July 2013 to 30th June 2014

Who will inspect the system?
Inspectors will be Cork County Council employees and be appointed as inspectors by the EPA once they meet the criteria set out in the legislation.  The EPA maintains a list of appointed inspectors.

Householders should not allow any person to enter their property to examine their DWWTS unless they have received prior notification in writing from Cork County Council that their system is to be inspected. Any person claiming to be from a local authority should be asked for official Cork County Council identification.

Owners of systems selected for inspection will be notified at least 10 working days in advance of an inspection being carried out.  Inspections will be carried out by suitably qualified local authority personnel.  Householders should not allow any person to enter their property to examine their treatment system unless they have received prior notification in writing from their local authority that their system is to be inspected. Any person claiming to be from a local authority should be asked for official identification. There is no fee for the first inspection carried out by Cork County Council.

When will the inspections commence?
Inspections will commence after the 1st July 2013.

What will be inspected?
The inspections are intended to find out if your DWWTS poses a risk to you and your family?s health and the environment.  They will consist of checks to make sure that the DWWTS is not leaking nor has an unauthorised discharge, that it is properly operated and maintained and that it has been emptied of excess sludge when required. 

See the EPA animated video which talks you through an inspection.

Also, information leaflets published by  Department of Environment,

Community and Local Government (DECLG).

View the Domestic Waste Water Treatment System Inspection Form

Will I get a copy of the inspection report?
Yes you will receive a copy of the inspection report within 21 days of the inspection from Cork County Council.

What happens if my septic tank (treatment system) fails an inspection?
Inspections are aimed at identifying treatment systems which are a risk to public health or the environment.  Irrespective of the age or type of system in place, if there is no evidence of risk to human health or the environment, no action will be necessary.  There is no question of imposing modern standards on older systems.  Nor is there any question of householders having to acquire additional land to facilitate remediation work.  Where an on-site system fails an inspection, the remediation work required will be based on factors such as the nature of the problem, the extent of risk to public health or the environment, existing site size and the hydrological and geological conditions present.  Planning permission is not required for works arising from an inspection carried out as required under the National Inspection Programme.

If your septic tank fails the inspection you will be notified immediately by the Inspector, a copy of the inspection report will issue to you within 21 days and it will be accompanied by an Advisory Notice, which sets out the reason for the non-compliance and advises what next steps you need to take.

If you are not satisfied with the inspection report you may request a re-inspection using the  form in S.I. No. 189 of 2013 and by paying the ?20.00 re-inspection fee.

Please read the advice and guidance notes on remediation and replacement of DWWTS.

Is there a grant available?
The Minister of Environment, Community and Local Government has announced a grant scheme.  Grants are available for the carrying out of remediation, repair or upgrading works to, or replacement of, a domestic waste water treatment system, where such remediation, repair, upgrading or replacement arises directly from an inspection and subsequent issue of an advisory notice under the Water Services (Amendment) Act 2012.

At a minimum the DWWTS requiring remediation must have been registered by the owner of the premises connected to it by the prescribed date of 1st February 2013. There are also income limits regarding availability of the grant. More details are available from the  DECLG.

Household Income % of approved costs available Maximum Grant available

Up to ?50,000 80% ?4,000
?50,001 - ?75,000 50% ?2,500
In excess of ?75,000 No grant is available No grant is available

Links for further INFO

Where can I get more information on inspection of septic tanks?


Guidance on Cork County Council's Implementation of the National Inspection Plan

Where can I get more information on septic tanks and how they work?

What you can do to improve your treatment system

Remediation and Replacement of DWWT System

Where can I get more information on available grants?

Where can I get more Information on Making a Complaint

Wastewater legislation for single houses

To Register your septic tanks and other types of treatment and disposal systems for domestic waste water



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