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Septic Tank/ Domestic Waste Water Treatment Systems

Septic Tank/ Domestic Waste Water Treatment Systems

A registration and inspection regime was introduced in June 2012 for domestic waste water treatment systems, such as septic tanks. The regime aims to protect ground and surface water quality from the risks posed by systems that are not working properly.


Under the Water Services (Amendment) Act 2012 owners of domestic waste water treatment systems are required to ensure that their systems are on the register. Systems for domestic wastewater should be registered on www.protectourwater.ie.

The general deadline for registration was 1 February 2013, but late registrations are being accepted. Registrations after the deadline are not be eligible for any grant if the system is found to need remedial work. New systems which have been installed or built after 1 February 2013 must be registered within 90 days of being connected. Replacements of previously registered systems do not have to be registered separately.

A national register has been compiled and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has developed a national inspection plan. The list of registered systems in County Cavan can be viewed by contacting the Environment Section at 049 437 8486 or environ@cavancoco.ie.

Owners of domestic waste water treatment systems need to:

  • Know where their septic tank is located
  • Operate and maintain the system so it is fit for purpose and fully operational
  • Ensure that the system cannot pollute the environment by discharging or leaking waste anywhere it is not supposed to, that is, into the ground or any water source
  • Ensure that roof water or surface water run-off cannot enter a domestic waste water treatment system
  • De-sludge the system at intervals appropriate to the tank capacity and the number of people resident in the premises connected to it, or as recommended by the system’s manufacturer. De-sludging should be carried out by an authorised contractor. You should keep the receipt from the contractor for 5 years.

Waste Collection Permit Holders

The following list provides details of waste collection permit holders from Cavan, Meath, Monaghan, Louth, Longford & Fermanagh authorised to collect septic tank/wastewater treatment system sludge in County Cavan.


The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has developed a National Inspection Plan to help identify domestic waste water treatment systems that are not meeting the expected standard. Such inspections concentrate on areas with high risk to the environment and public health – where drinking water sources or habitats are at risk from waste water discharges. They are also carried out in areas of lower risk, but at a lower rate.

Cavan County Council will notify you if your domestic waste water treatment system is to be inspected. The inspectors are trained inspection staff from Cavan County Council which have been appointed and approved by the EPA, they carry identification and show it to householders on request. If the inspector finds that your system is working properly and being maintained correctly, you need take no extra action. Otherwise you will get an advisory notice from the local authority, requiring you to improve the maintenance of your system or to upgrade or remediate it. Any remediation work required will be based on factors such as the nature of the problem, the extent of risk to public health or the environment, existing site size and the hydrological and geological conditions present.

If you need to carry out this type of work, you may be able to get a grant to help with the cost of the work required. In order to be eligible for a grant, you must have registered by 1 February 2013.

Grant Applications for Septic Tanks

S.I. No. 222/2013 - Domestic Waste Water Treatment Systems (Financial Assistance) Regulations 2013 has now been revised with the publication of the Housing (Domestic Waste Water Treatment Systems (DWWTS) Financial Assistance) Regulations 2020 (S.I. No. 184 of 2020).

The revised Regulations provide that, subject to all eligibility criteria being met, Cavan County Council may pay a grant to a person for the carrying out of remediation, repair or upgrading works to, or replacement of a DWWTS that is deemed, following an inspection, to require such works.

The new terms and conditions include:

  1. The requirement to comply with the prescribed registration date as stated in the Domestic Waste Water Treatment Systems (Registration) Regulations 2012 (S.I.220/2012), as amended by the Domestic Waste Water Treatment Systems (Registration)(Amendment) Regulations 2013 (S.I. 180/2013);
  2. The removal of the means test requirement; and,
  3. The introduction of a uniform grant rate of 85% of the eligible costs of remediation, repair or upgrading works, or replacement of any such system or €5,000, whichever is the lower.

Grants are available under the following schemes:

  • Grants for DWWTS (National Inspection Plan)
  • Grants for DWWTS (Prioritised Areas for Action under the RBMP)
  • Grants for DWWTS (High Status Objective Catchment Areas under the RBMP)

 However, there are restrictions on eligibility under each scheme.

  • The treatment system must have been inspected under the National Inspection Plan and an advisory notice issued by the local authority under the Water Services (Amendment) Act 2012.


  • The treatment system serves a house that is situated in a Prioritised Area for Action in accordance with the River Basin Management Plan 2018-2021, and a letter has been issued by the Local Authority Waters Programme Office on behalf of the relevant local authority, confirming eligibility to apply.


In all of the above grant schemes the following criteria apply:

  • The treatment system requiring attention must have been registered by the owner by 1st February 2013, or in the case of treatment systems constructed or installed after this date registration must have been completed within 90 days of connection.
  • Grants will not be paid towards the normal costs of ensuring a system is working properly e.g. maintaining, servicing or de-sludging a domestic waste water treatment system.


If you have a septic tank or similar domestic waste water treatment system, you already have a duty of care (under the Water Services Act 2007) to ensure that your treatment system does not cause a risk to human health or the environment or create a nuisance through odours. The 2012 Act adds to the existing duty of care provisions.

The EPA’s 2009 Code of Practice on waste water treatment systems for single houses sets out the most up-to-date standards. However, these will not be applied to older systems. The 2012 Regulations define performance standards, including maintenance and de-sludging requirements.

The EPA in conjunction with the Network of Ireland’s Environmental Compliance and Enforcement (NIECE) Working Group on Engagement has produced an information leaflet on septic tank systems.  A Private Wells leaflet is also available.  

Further information

You can contact Cavan County Council or go to the EPA website ‘Householder Information on septic tanks’ for more information.

There is also a detailed set of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on protectourwater.ie.

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