Irish septic tank failures send warning to UK

11th March 2014

Reports from Ireland that nearly 8 out of 10 septic tanks have failed checks by local authorities in the Republic, is a warning to householders in the UK.

The results from a national programme of inspections by the Environment Protection Agency in Ireland have caused concern for septic tank owners who risk penalties and also for the environment. Wildlife and water courses can be seriously damaged when septic tank waste seeps into water courses as a result of poor maintenance and a lack of routine desludging.

Serious believes that the problems in Ireland are being caused by a lack of maintenance which could set a precedent if the Environment Agency in the UK initiates a similar national programme with local councils.

David Bould, Operations Manager at Serious says: “The problems of overflowing septic tanks have been highlighted during the recent floods and many householders have found sewage floating in their gardens. If people with septic tanks fail to keep their tanks in good order, they risk putting additional pollutants in circulation.”

"We know there are septic tanks in this country that are not desludged regularly and there are also many cross connections which mean surface water is getting diverted into septic tanks, leading to hydraulic overloading. The result is too much water going into a septic tank that isn’t designed for it.”

The Environment Agency can impose unlimited fines or even imprisonment if householders allow their septic tanks to pollute. Under section 59 of the Building Act 1984, the Council may require the owner or occupier of a building to carry out remedial works where a septic tank, settlement tank or cesspool is insufficient, can cause health risks or cause a nuisance.
It also has powers under section 85 of the Water Resources Act 1991 to prosecute anyone causing or knowingly permitting pollution of any stream, river, lake or any groundwater.

Proper, routine desludging can prevent the failure of soakaways, many of which allow solids to pass through and subsequently “blind” the system. It’s too easy to think you can cut corners on keeping a septic tank trouble-free, but an expenditure of about £12 a month can save a huge amount of money in the long term.

We’re urging householders to contact a reputable waste company to check their septic tanks for possible problems.

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