Septic tanks

A new registration and inspection regime was introduced in June 2012 for domestic waste water treatment systems, such as septic tanks. The new regime aims to protect ground and surface water quality from the risks posed by systems that are not working properly. It is being introduced under the Water Services (Amendment) Act 2012 with further detail in a set of Regulations of 2012.


If you have a septic tank or similar system, you must register its details with your local authority and pay a registration fee. You will have to re-register after 5 years but you will not have to pay a fee for the second or subsequent registrations.

The general deadline for registration was 1 February 2013, but late registrations are still being accepted - see 'How to apply' below. If you register after the deadline, you will not be eligible for any grant if your system is found to need remedial work - see ‘Grants for remedial work' below.

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

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.

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.

Waste collection permit holders


Local authorities will arrange for inspections to be carried out. The inspectors will be appointed and approved by the EPA. They will have to carry identification and show it to householders on request.

Inspections will start in 2013 and will 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 will also be carried out in areas of lower risk, but at a lower rate. Your local authority will notify you if your domestic waste water treatment system is to be inspected.

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.

Grants for remedial work

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. The grant is means-tested. In order to be eligible for a grant, you must have registered by 1 February 2013. See ‘Rates’ below for the income thresholds and grant rates.


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 a new information leaflet on septic tank systems.   A Private Wells leaflet is also available.  
Have you completed a septic tank system check? Information leaflet on septic tank check
Have your checked your well water supply? Information leaflet on well check

How to safely spread sludge from your septic tank: Download information leaflet on sludge spreading (Pdf, 1MB)


How to apply

There are 3 ways to register your system :

  • Online at
  • By post: You can download a form (pdf). Forms are also available in city/county councils, libraries and Citizens Information Centres or by calling LoCall 1890 800 800 for information. Cheques should be made payable to ‘Protect Our Water’ and posted to Protect our Water, PO Box 12204, Dublin 7.
  • At Cavan local authorities (there is no administration fee)

Further information

The Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government has published an information note (pdf) on the legislation and the Environmental Protection Agency has published a set of Frequently Asked Questions.

There is also a detailed set of FAQs on

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