By Suzanne Pender
MORE than one in every four domestic wastewater treatment systems nationwide inspected in 2019 was a risk to human health or the environment, yet despite the risk to public welfare and environmental protection, there is very little accountability.
This is the contention of experts at Irish-owned wastewater treatment specialists Ireland Waste Water who, on the back of a recent report from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), are calling on the government to introduce an awareness campaign on grant support and a training programme for local authorities and homeowners tasked with the responsibility of maintaining sewage standards.
The EPA report found that in Co Carlow 19% of septic tank inspections failed, but thankfully, 100% of the systems that failed inspection between 2013 and 2019 have since been fixed.
This compares with a 51% failure rate of systems nationwide and 26% which posed a risk to human health or the environment. Of that total, 27% of systems inspected since 2013 were still not fixed.
The report indicated that a lack of maintenance and desludging was identified as a key issue with domestic systems.
Mary Mulcahy of Ireland Waste Water explained their position:
“The statistics in the EPA’s most recent report are stark and they are a testament to the fact that not enough is being done on building awareness of the problems and of supports available to uphold standards. On top of this, testing is not as rigorous as it needs to be to ensure access to clean water.
“The EPA suggests that greater engagement is needed from local authorities and while this might be the case, we must first address exactly why they are not currently engaged to a greater degree.
“One of the major challenges is that local authorities, engineers and homeowners themselves are ultimately responsible for maintaining these standards on a daily basis, yet neither has enough knowledge or know-how to do so.”
IWW says Ireland needs better management of septic water systems and the government needs to ensure better understanding of the importance of good wastewater treatment systems and the risks of poor management across the board.
They indicate that there are two primary issues affecting the quality of water in various, particularly rural, locations around the country – namely, the improper spreading of slurry and the sub-par maintenance of household septic tanks and wastewater treatment systems.