New guidance will set septic tank standards

Thousands of Irish homeowners will be advised to desludge their septic tanks every two years to keep them functioning properly and prevent pollution under proposed new guidance.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is set to publish a Code of Practice for domestic wastewater treatment systems not connected to mains sewers – a situation which affects about a third of homes in Ireland.

Homeowners are responsible for the maintenance of their own wastewater treatment systems and have to find and employ licensed waste contractors to desludge septic tanks.

Speaking at the Irish Water, Waste and Environment exhibition in Dublin, Anne Marie Crowley of the National Standards Authority said about 35,000 homes in Ireland use septic tanks to treat wastewater from their kitchens, bathrooms and toilets.

She said: “There is no legal requirement for anybody to desludge a septic tank, but if they are not done at some stage, they will begin to fail.

“In the EPA Code of Practice, there will be a requirement for this to be done every two years.”

She added: “It would be wrong to say that all septic tanks are bad. Certainly in their day when they were properly installed with proper facilities, they worked.

“The expectation is that the enforcement of the code should resolve a lot of the problems.”

Local authorities are responsible for enforcing regulations for installing septic tanks and ensuring they do not cause pollution, however Ms Crowley admitted that it is not guaranteed that they will be able to monitor the volume of houses involved.

She said: “The local authorities would have the experts, but might not have enough resources.”

The code has been drawn up to help Ireland’s unsewered waste treatment facilities meet new European standards for such systems and update existing guidance on the safe and environmentally-sound installation and operation of tanks.

Kate Martin

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