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Two-thirds of Mayo septic tanks failing inspections


Anton McNulty

A SENIOR official with Mayo County Council claimed that two in three septic tanks Mayo are not passing inspections, with the majority failing due to lack of maintenance.
EPA septic-tank inspections have been taking place since 2013, with most being carried out in areas with that leaks pose the environment and public health.
The issue was raised at last week’s meeting of the Westport/Belmullet Municipal District where Achill-based councillor Paul McNamara said he was informed by a number of constituents that septic tanks that were only built in the last ten to 15 years were failing and it would cost them up to €10,000 to repair.
“Anyone who has built a house in the last ten to 15 year now has a family to support and they haven’t that spare household income to replace the tanks. It is costing anything up to €10,000 to upgrade a septic tank.
“I know there is a small amount of assistance there but it is not near enough. These people took out mortgages to build a house and adhered to the regulations, but now they are now failing. It cannot be a case that people are being penalised. Nobody set out to cause the environment any harm. People are getting letters about this and they are worried and we need to address it,” he said.

New systems
Martin Keating, Head of Environment, Climate Change and Agriculture at Mayo County Council told the meeting that they have noticed that many of the new septic tank systems are failing because people are not maintaining them.
“On a results basis probably two thirds which are coming back are failing but contrary to the public perception, the majority are failing not because the site wasn’t suitable but because people do not maintain their septic tanks,” he explained.
“They don’t do the basic maintenance … particularly over the last 15 or 20 years, since we have gone for more mechanical and electrical and complex systems. It is amazing the number of sites we go to where people don’t know if the systems are turned on and don’t know how to turn them on or how they operate. There is a huge deficit of people maintaining their own systems.”
Mr Keating told councillors that the grants scheme has been updated so the income limits no longer apply and the level of grant support has been increased to 85 percent of costs or €5,000, whichever is the lesser.
However, he stressed that ‘the majority of those that fail do not require replacement, they require maintenance’.
While welcoming the increased grant, Cllr McNamara said the septic tanks that were brought to his attention were not mechanical but the traditional tank with a soak pit. He said whatever the problem is, he felt it would get worse with the ‘Green agenda’.
Carrowholly-based councillor John O’Malley commented that he was not surprised new septic tanks were failing because he felt a number were installed by ‘cowboy builders’ who did not know how they worked.