More than 10,000 home-owners in Cork will not be able to avail of government grants to defray the potentially large cost of repairing defective septic tanks.
Louis Duffy, head of the county council environment directorate, has said that, on average, approximately 59% of septic tanks inspected in the county so far were non-complaint with regulations.
While many can be fixed by simple desludging, some have more serious defects requiring total replacement, which could cost householders in excess of €10,000.
Those who did not sign up to the septic tank register before February 1, 2013, will not be eligible for a government grant to fix them.
Mr Duffy said up to 20% of systems require significant remediation works.
“Costs can vary from less than €2,000 where a percolation area needs to be renewed, to more than €10,000 where the whole system has to be replaced,” he said.
Grant aid of up to 80% of the cost of the works is available, although the maximum payment is capped at €4,000.
A total of 146 inspections were carried out in the period 2013 to 2014. Of these, 79 were found to be non-compliant, and advisory notices were served on them requiring remediation works to be carried out.
All but four of those householders have rectified problems. The four that still have not complied because they can not afford to do so.
Council officials say that the four do not pose a direct risk to human health, but do pose a risk to the environment.
“Cork County Council continues to work in a co- operative manner with householders to encourage them to carry out any necessary remediation works to comply with their notices,” said Mr Duffy. “Where necessary legal action will be taken to achieve compliance.”
While inspections are random, they are being carried out in what are known as ‘at- risk areas’.
The are areas close to rivers, lakes, groundwater sources, coastal and estuarine waters.
Since the inspections started in 2013, the county council has carried out a total of 459. Of those, 59% were deemed non-complaint.
Mr Duffy has said more grant aid should be provided to enable increased inspections, especially because of the high non-compliance rates. He said at the current rate of inspection, around 100 per year, it would take 500 years to inspect every septic tank in the county.
For high risk areas such as beaches where water quality may be at risk from septic tanks, Cork County Council initiated a new approach and produced a specific leaflet for distribution to householders in particular high risk areas.
“The leaflets identify the risks posed by poorly functioning septic tanks in their area and recommend basic maintenance measures, including desludging which should be undertaken every two to three years by an authorised contractor,” Mr Duff said.
He added that the leaflets have been distributed door to door in a number of beach areas and have been well received by the public.
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