There will be at least 29 risk based domestic waste water system inspections in Leitrim over the next 15 months, starting this July.
Local authorities will carry out 1,000 inspections on septic tanks across Ireland over the next 15 months.The Environmental Protection Agency is training county council staff to carry out the inspections.
The EPA last week published the National Inspection Plan for Domestic Waste Water Treatment Systems 2013 . They said county council inspectors will have the power to enter private property and seek remedial works to be carried out if a septic tank is not in an appropriate condition. It will be up to the householder and the inspector to then agree on a period of time in which the work will be carried out.
If this is not done, the local authority will have the responsibility for following up with a prosecution.
Leitrim has a high number of risk-based domestic waste water systems due to it’s large area of poor percolation, high groundwater vulnerability, and a high density of DWWTSs.
There are around 500,000 homes in Ireland with domestic waste water treatment systems. Inspections will be concentrated in areas where waste water discharges present a high risk to human health or the environment. Priority areas are based on levels of risk to sensitive water receptors, for example, drinking water sources, bathing waters, or pearl mussel beds.
When inspections commence, homeowners will be notified of an inspection at least 10 days in advance by their local authority. Inspections will focus on determining whether or not the treatment system poses a risk to human health or the environment. Checks will include whether the system is registered; that it is not leaking; that the system components are in working order; that effluent is not ponding on the surface of the ground; that the system is not discharging directly to surface water without a licence; that rainwater and clean surface water are not entering the system; that the system is being properly operated and maintained; and that the system has been de-sludged.
The owner will be notified about the findings of the inspection within 21 days. The European Commission has welcomed the publication of the inspection plans by the EPA.
It is understood the move will lead to the cancellation of daily European fines, which Ireland was facing because of its failure to implement proper septic tank regulations.
Indepemndent MEP Marian Harkin said that “Because of the relatively low number of septic tank inspections to be carried out, and their focus, it will mean that the total cost to the State for remedial works where they arise will be quite small.” She called on the Government to fully fund remedial works especially for those with limited means.
She said “It seems obvious that it is the septic tanks with the most serious issues to be resolved that will be identified and requiring remediation. The recently announced grants scheme is totally inadequate to meet what could be the major works necessary to achieve compliance with EPA and local authority requirements.
“Logically it may be costly to achieve the outcome required by legislation, and by the environmental rights of the community. However, just as any wastewater problem in urban areas is fixed at no cost to householders those in rural areas deserve equal treatment.”