Regs for Operation & Maintenance of Wastewater Systems

Posted by on Mar 14, 2012 in news | 0 comments

The Minister for the Environment Mr. Phil Hogan has just released a document outlining the regulations for the operation and maintenance of domestic Wastewater Treatment Systems:

General responsibility

 Owners of houses served by a septic tank or other domestic waste water treatment system should be aware of the location of their system and its component parts and should carry out an examination of their system at least once a year to ensure there is no visual evidence that it is causing pollution or that it is in need of maintenance. The percolation area should also be examined to ensure it is not damaged. Owners should take care that the percolation area is kept free from disturbance from vehicles, heavy animals, sports activities or other activities likely to break the sod on the surface. By carrying out such examinations and ensuring the system is operated and maintained correctly, the householder will reduce the likelihood of the system causing any risk to human health or the environment. This will enable the householder to take the first step to fulfilling his or her obligation under the Act to ensure that the treatment system is not a risk to public health or the environment. The regulations will require that only the domestic waste waters from the premises should be allowed to enter the treatment system. Domestic waste water – which is defined in the Water Services Act 2007 – means waste water of a composition and concentration (biological and chemical) normally discharged by a household, and which originates from the human metabolism or from day to day domestic type human activities, including sanitation and washing (which includes grey water). As part of the inspection system to be introduced, where a treatment system is found to be operating in a manner which contravenes the operation and maintenance regulations, practical and pragmatic solutions will be identified to bring the treatment system into compliance in the most efficient manner, having regard to the circumstances and to the level of the risk to human health and the environment. It is also important to note that if a system is inspected and there is no evidence of a risk to human health or the environment, no remedial action will be required for the treatment system (including the percolation area), irrespective of the type or age of the system.

 Discharges from the treatment system

 The regulations will address discharges from the treatment system in three ways.

First, the regulations will provide that a domestic waste water treatment system should be operated and maintained by the owner so as to ensure that it is not discharging (e.g. seeping, leaking or otherwise escaping) from a place or part of the system where it is not designed or intended to discharge.

Second, the regulations will require that the effluent discharge pipe from the treatment system should not discharge directly to the surface of the ground or result in domestic waste water or other effluent from the system rising to the surface of the ground (this is known as “ponding” and is clear evidence that a system requires maintenance or remediation).

 Third, the regulations will provide that a treatment system should also not directly discharge domestic waste water from the system into surface waters, such as streams or ditches, except where this is licensed under Section 4 of the Local Government (Water Pollution) Act 1977.

 Sludge Removal

 The frequency of emptying of sewage sludge from a treatment system will vary depending on a variety of factors – these would include the number of persons occupying the house(s) discharging to the system, the capacity of the system and the treatment process within the system, etc. The carrying out of an examination of the system (at least once a year), including dipping the tank, is the most practical method of determining if sludge needs to be removed from the system. Attached for information purposes at Appendix 1 is a schedule prepared by Cavan County Council setting out recommended periods, based on occupancy levels and tank capacities, for sludge removal from treatment systems. This schedule is included for indicative purposes only; it will not be included in the Regulations.

The regulations will provide that the owner of the treatment system should have the system de-sludged as required to avoid causing a risk to public health or the environment and for the efficient operation of the treatment system. Because the minimum frequency for de-sludging will depend on a variety of different factors, the regulations will not specify a standard minimum period for de-sludging. However, owners should be aware that all treatment systems require periodic desludging for efficient operation. If sludge is left to accumulate in the system indefinitely, the performance of the system will deteriorate. The collection and transport of sludge from domestic waste water treatment systems is controlled by local authorities under the Waste Management (Collection Permit) (Amendment) Regulations 2008. Only waste collectors permitted under the collection permit regulations are authorised to transport domestic waste water treatment plant sludges. A list of permitted collectors is available from individual local authorities. When having the system desludged, the owner should get a written receipt from the authorised person and should keep the receipt so it can be presented if the system is subsequently inspected. All domestic waste water sludges should be disposed of in accordance with existing legislation. The existing arrangements for the disposal of sludge in agriculture will continue to apply.

 General Operational Requirements

 The regulations will provide that:

 (a) The tank capacity and configuration should be sufficient to allow for settlement and retention of solids, in accordance with general occupancy levels;

 (b) Roof water and surface water runoff is not allowed to enter the waste water treatment system;

 (c) Inlets/outlets/pipework are clear of any adverse material or blockages;

 (d) Man-hole covers, manholes, distribution box, T-pieces, pipes, tanks are of good working order are not damaged and are sealed where appropriate;

 (e) Any distribution-box/pump chamber should be watertight and the distribution box should be level and allow for even distribution;

 (f) Any mechanical or electrical equipment (e.g. pumps, aerators, alarms etc.) are fit for purpose and are operational;

 (g) Aeration vent pipes should be dry and free from obstructions, and

 (h) Such operation and maintenance is in compliance with manufacturer’s Operation and Maintenance Manual, as appropriate.

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