Rural Septic Tanks Putting Health At Risk

In its annual report, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has warned that poorly maintained septic tanks are a risk to people’s health, affecting the quality of drinking water in private water supplies.

Key findings from the EPA report include:

  • In 2021, more than half of septic tanks inspected failed to meet minimum standards.
  • 1,147 domestic wastewater treatment systems inspected.
  • Faulty septic tank systems are a risk to people’s health and the environment

In 2021, Local Authorities inspected 1,147 Septic tanks and other domestic waste water treatment systems in rural areas. The national average failure rate was 53% with 29% of systems inspected in 2021 representing a risk to human health. Some areas experienced a very high failure rate - in Co. Meath for example, 94% of the 71 domestic wastewater treatment systems failed the inspection.

One fifth of the people of Ireland get their water from private supplies which not only service domestic properties but also hotels, pubs and restaurants, creches, nursing homes and national schools where drinking water is provided to users.

Drinking water can become contaminated when human or animal organic waste enters the water supply. Bacteria that can contaminate drinking water include E. Coli, Coliforms, Clostridia Perfringens and Enterococci. Failures were also recorded where high levels of Nitrate was found in the supplies.

Dr. Tom Ryan, Director of the EPA’s Office of Environmental Enforcement warned:

“Some of these problems may go unnoticed unless householders check their septic tank and drinking water well. Householders should visually check their septic tank and get their well tested at least annually to satisfy themselves that their septic tank is not posing a risk to the health of their families, their neighbours and the environment.”

The full EPA report is available to download here.

If you are concerned about the quality of your drinking water please contact us to arrange a drinking water test or purchase a drinking water test kit online.