The Monday Interview: Feeling the flow after coming full circle

Niall and Mary Mulcahy, founders of Ireland Waste Water, with their daughter Avril (right) and Ciara Hurley, office administrator, (left) in the office near Riverstick, Co Cork. Picture: Denis Minihane.

It’s been a lot of trial and error, countless kitchen table board meetings, but a Cork family firm has come up with what it is calling a revolutionary way to treat wastewater in a sustainable way.

Ireland Waste Water, based in Riverstick, Co Cork, is the only company that has achieved European certification for its product, Circle 7, which it says is unique in the Irish market.

The firm was formed by Mary and Niall Mulcahy over 12 years ago and designs, manufactures, and installs precast concrete wastewater treatment systems, septic tanks, interceptors, grease traps, and rainwater-harvesting systems.

This month, representatives from the EU-certifying body launched Circle 7, an invention that will purify wastewater in homes, schools, factories, and businesses in rural Ireland to a higher standard than what is currently achievable, saving them thousands of euro in the process, and in a more environmentally friendly way.

Ms Mulcahy said: “We have been working on Circle 7 for three years and we were only ever going to bring it to market if and when it reached the very high standard we had set for ourselves. 

"From kitchen table drawings to certification by PIA in Germany, after a few failed prototypes and some that were just not up to standard, we finally created a solution that will revolutionise the wastewater industry — first in Ireland and later in other European countries and beyond.”

PIA (Prufinstitut fur Abwassertechnik) is the largest testing laboratory in Europe for the decentralised wastewater industry.

Mr Mulcahy said: “Three years ago, we said we’d sit down and have a look at it. Two years ago, we put Circle 7 together. 

"But we didn’t want to go ahead with it until we could put it through PIA in Germany, the most recognised body by the councils here. 

"We didn’t want to go ahead with it until such time as we had the paper in our hands that we could go to the engineer. Now we have it.”

Circle 7 reimagines the traditional flawed septic tank process which, when not managed correctly, is a risk for contaminating the land and the water system.

It provides a new system to treat wastewater by taking household waste, percolating it using an advanced filtration system, and bringing it to a near drinking water standard.

Mr Mulcahy said: “An ongoing problem with wastewater from Irish households is the growing use of chemicals which is leading to an increase in the amount of ‘grey water’.

Grey water is damaging septic tanks and wastewater systems as they currently stand in homes all over the country, with the primary risk being contamination of the clean water supply into a home, as well as of the surrounding land.

“The added bonus of our system is it will actually save homeowners €5,000 over five years at least, because there is no desludging required, no parts replacement, no media filter replacement, and no pumps needed.”

Circle 7 can be fitted to new and existing wastewater treatment plants, anywhere in Ireland, to vastly improve the quality of the system, say the Mulcahys.

Niall and Mary Mulcahy. Picture: Denis Minihane
Niall and Mary Mulcahy. Picture: Denis Minihane

Its vision is to be part of every new domestic wastewater treatment plant in Ireland, after which they will look to the UK and US markets, as well as France, says Ms Mulcahy.

Mr Mulcahy added: “The material is the most important function of the tank, in that is never has to be replaced. 

"Down the road, you never have to go to Hong Kong or China to look for new materials to put into it. There’s also no desludging in our system.

“There are no big costs down through the years or replacements. There is also no power consumption needed, so there are no electrical costs.

“It’s all eco-friendly and there is a smaller footprint on the ground. There is no protruding mounds or anything sticking up over the ground. It’s just the way the system is designed.

“The problem with other systems over the ground is you can’t see how it is functioning if it is all grassed over. You can in ours. You have a big bonus there for the protection of groundwater.

“Digging up lawns could cost you thousands and you are then getting into contaminated water. Our system is serviced and monitored anyway.

“It’s fairly bulletproof.”

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