O’Reilly Oakstown Environmental installed a wastewater treatment system for the castle during the course of the build.The transformation of the 800 year old building was a credit to all involved in it’s restoration.
Peter Varley discusses the options available for upgrading existing sewage treatment systems and installing new ones.
Original Article appeared in Irish Farmers Journal on 04 Jul 2018
The fine weather offers an ideal opportunity to carry out works with faulty septic tanks and sewage treatment systems. Every homeowner with a private sewage treatment system is obliged to make sure their system is installed, operated and maintained in a way that makes sure it does not pose a risk to human health and the environment. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), around 500,000 households in Ireland have a wastewater system that includes septic tanks and packaged systems.
Sewage treatment in one-off houses in rural Ireland traditionally consisted of a septic tank and gravel percolation area. The septic tank is the primary treatment area where primary separation of solid waste (sludge) within the water occurs.
Secondary treatment of wastewater is used to further purify wastewater. This is usually carried out using gravel percolation beds where the soil is expected to do the remaining 70% of sewage treatment. However, more modern systems have special secondary treatment systems that aerate the wastewater and mix it with a solution of microorganisms. Territory wastewater treatment involves removing phosphates and nitrates from the water supply. In Ireland, filtration systems are used to achieve this using peat beds, shredded coconut husks or sand filtration.
Existing tanks need to be maintained and checked often for blockages, ponding, odours, noises and sewage in nearby ditches and streams. Routine maintenance also needs to be carried out.
Improving existing tanks
Diarmuid O’Reilly, managing director of O’Reilly Oakstown, a wastewater treatment company based in Trim, Co Meath, says many of the sewage treatment systems in rural areas are not performing as they should.
“Some systems are leaking, while the design of others is not appropriate for the area it is situated,” Diarmuid explains. There is a grant available to upgrade existing tanks but this is inaccessible for the majority of homeowners.
Householders who registered their system by the prescribed date of 1 February 2013 may be eligible for this grant aid to repair or upgrade their system. However, to avail of the grant, you first have to fail a council inspection.
The number of inspections carried out have been very low to date per county. If you upgrade your system without a grant you should be familiar with the requirements of the legislation and your obligations as an owner.
Planning permission may be required if you are upgrading an existing sewage treatment system or installing a new one. The EPA advises to firstly check with your planning authority on whether planning permission was granted for your existing system including the type and location of system.
Where remediation is required, the EPA recommends that the homeowner procures the services of a competent wastewater professional.
Sometimes, it may be possible to fix a tank by fixing the T-bend where the waste enters the primary tank.
A properly functioning T-bend slows down the rate of movement of solids into the tank, reducing the splash effect in the tank so that a scum layer can form creating anaerobic conditions for waste water treatment. Many existing systems are not working efficiently because percolation areas are too low and have no soakage (Figure 1).
Diarmuid says there are two common solutions to improve the performance of existing septic tanks. One solution involves installing a new 750-litre pump chamber and distribution box so that treated water can be pumped to a percolation area where soakage is better (Figure 2)
This pump chamber costs €1,150 including VAT. The other solution involves installing a bespoke secondary treatment system with an aeration system to improve the treatment process and further purify wastewater. There are many different types of secondary sewage treatment systems.
In Oakstown, they use a three-chamber secondary treatment process to digest, clarify and then pump the water from the two primary chambers. In the bioreactors, aerobic bacteria are cultured on durable netted plastic biomedia. This gives the microbes adequate surface to attach to while air is blown through the tubes from a low-watt blower sitting on top of the tank.
The air enters the tubes from the bottom of the tank and diffuses into millions of tiny bubbles, allowing the aerobic bacteria to thrive.
The inclusion of both air and grey water activates the bacteria to work on, further breaking down the sewage via aerobic digestion, and making it less harmful to the environment.
The second chamber acts as a clarifier to periodically remove any solids which may get to that stage. The final chamber is the discharge area. Here, a water pump moves treated sewage from the system to the percolation area. Diarmuid says up to 99% of the sewage treatment efficiency can be achieved after it goes through the combination of primary and secondary treatment. This secondary treatment tank costs €3,050 including VAT.
If installing a new system for a new dwelling house or an existing home, Diarmuid says a soil engineer should be consulted before any decision or system choice is made. A soil engineer will assess the site and recommend what type of treatment system is necessary.
A site assessment will determine whether a particular site can achieve the safe dispersal of wastewater from a development. Diarmuid says soil engineers carry out T-tests and P-tests. Very good soils that are efficient at treating grey water in a percolation area will typically have a T-test result of five to 20.
Extremely free-draining soils with a T-test result under five are likely to require a secondary treatment system because partially treated sewage may make its way directly into groundwater or wells too easily.
On the other hand, wetter soils with a T-test over 20 would also be more likely to require secondary sewage treatment because in time there may be a risk of clogging in average to poor soils. As a rule of thumb, to calculate the size of the septic tank required, multiply the number of people in the house by 150 litres (as a person uses 150 litres/day) and add 2,000 litres. For example, a six-person house is (6 x 150) + 2,000 = 2,900 litres. Diarmuid says they have a combined primary and secondary treatment system designed to cater for a six-person household which costs €3,600 including VAT.
Routine maintenance of tanks mainly involves desludging. All of the wastewaters from your home go into your system. The sludge is a buildup of all solids. The sludge must not build up too much or your system will stop working properly.
According to the EPA, if the sludge is not removed, it can block the pipes in your percolation area. If this happens it is very difficult to clean and may require replacement.
It could also cause a risk to human health and the environment.
The sludge should be removed from the tank when it takes up more than half of the liquid depth in the tank or at least every five years.
A minimum of 75mm of sludge should remain in the tank as it contains billions of the good microbes necessary to help breakdown the new solids. Use a permitted waste contractor and keep your receipt.
How to ensure your sewage treatment system continues to work correctly:
Desludge your septic tank every four to five years, a crust forming in the second chamber is a tell-tale sign it needs desludging. If drains leading from your house are backing up, it points to a possible full tank and perhaps issues with the percolation area.
Check that the air vent from the sewer pipe is unobstructed and is sufficiently high above the house to disperse odours away from the house.
Keep inspection lids on at all times and only open when necessary.
Ensure that the electrics are well above any potential flooding in the garden.
Fit alarms to alert you if any electronic component of a sewage treatment system is not functioning correctly.
Don’t flush wipes, cooking oil, panty liners, hair, sanitary towels, etc, down the toilet because they can cause blockages.
Don’t overuse disinfectants and bleaches down the toilet because they can kill the bacteria in the sewage treatment system that are essential for the breakdown of effluent.
Don’t allow waste food from food macerators into the system as the biological oxygen demand (BOD) resulting from this far exceeds that of normal waste.
Don’t allow vehicles or farm machinery to cross lids.
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Example of applications include:
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Find out more about what we do!
The O’Reilly Concrete Group are one of the largest Precast Concrete manufacturers in Ireland and the UK. Take a few moments to watch our newly released video which gives a great overview of our company, and find out what makes us unique. Wholly owned and manufactured by the O’Reilly family, through 3 generations, we work from a total of 6 Manufacturing Plants and we continue to expand our critical customer base through two key drivers – Innovation and Outstanding Customer Service.
Peter Varley talks to Diarmuid O’Reilly of O’Reilly Oakstown Environmental about installing new sewage treatment systems and the cost involved.
After the flooding this year it has become apparent that many septic tanks in rural areas are not working efficiently and may need upgrading. A septic tank is traditionally used for the primary treatment of sewage from most rural houses. Many older houses will only have a septic tank and some form of percolation area for sewage treatment but this is not always sufficient for treating sewage.
“In the septic tank the sludge settles, while the crust floats and the liquid or grey water moves on to the percolation area. Over 99.5% of all solids should be retained in the tank,” explained Diarmuid.
Sewage treatment takes place here via anaerobic digestion, generally breaking down the effluent by 30%. Diarmuid says that, typically, in older systems the grey water (partially treated sewage) goes to the percolation area where the soil is expected to do the remaining 70% of sewage treatment.
How the system should work
Diarmuid believes that a lot of Irish soils are unsuitable to carry out this level of sewage treatment and secondary treatment is usually required.
A secondary treatment system takes the partially digested water and feeds it to bacteria that break it down further.
There are many different types of secondary sewage treatment systems.
In Oakstown they use a three-chamber secondary treatment process to digest, clarify and then pump the water from the two primary chambers. In the bioreactors aerobic bacteria are cultured on durable netted plastic biomedia. This gives the microbes adequate surface to attach to while air is blown through the tubes from a low-watt blower sitting on top of the tank.
The air enters the tubes from the bottom of the tank and diffuses into millions of tiny bubbles, allowing the aerobic bacteria to thrive.
The inclusion of both air and grey water activates the bacteria to work on further breaking down the sewage via aerobic digestion, and making it less harmful to the environment.
The second chamber acts as a clarifier to periodically remove any solids which may get to that stage. The final chamber is the discharge area. Here a water pump moves treated sewage from the system to the percolation area. Diarmuid says up to 99% of the sewage treatment efficiency can be achieved after it goes through the combination of primary and secondary treatment.
Repairing an existing system
The main signs that a sewage treatment system is not functioning properly is water backing up in sewers and ponding around the percolation area. Sometimes it may be possible to fix a tank by fixing the T-bend where the waste enters the primary tank.
A properly functioning T-bend slows down the rate of movement of solids into the tank, reducing the splash effect in the tank so that a scum layer can form creating anaerobic conditions for waste water treatment.
Baby wipes should never be let into a tank because they cannot be broken down and cause blockages.
However, many old sewage treatment systems are beyond repair and are not fit for purpose. Some older tanks have structural cracks or the percolation system no longer works efficiently. Diarmuid believes these systems should be upgraded. Certainly, both septic tanks and sewage treatment systems should be desludged regularly.
Installing a new system
Planning permission is required when installing a new system but this is on the basis of a report from a soil engineer who will assess the site and recommend what type of treatment system is necessary.
A site assessment will determine whether or not a particular site can achieve the safe dispersal of wastewater from a development. Diarmuid says soil engineers carry out T-tests and P-tests. Very good soils that are efficient at treating grey water in a percolation area will typically have a T-test result of five to 20.
Extremely free-draining soils with a T-test result under five would likely require a secondary treatment system because partially treated sewage may make its way directly into groundwater or wells too easily.
On the other hand, wetter soils with a T-test over 20 would also be more likely to require secondary sewage treatment because in time there may be a risk of clogging in average to poor soils.
The cost depends on the size of household being serviced by the sewage treatment system. As a rule of thumb, to calculate the size of the septic tank required, multiply the number of people in the house by 150 litres (as a person uses 150 litres/day) and add 2,000 litres. For example, an eight-person house is (8 x 150) + 2,000 = 3,200 litres. Diarmuid says to service this household with a primary and secondary treatment system it would cost €3,500 including VAT. This includes installation costs, wiring, a low-watt air blower and water pump but, excludes a soil engineer assessment, planning permission and percolation area costs.
Householders who have registered their system by the prescribed date of 1 February 2013 may be eligible for grant aid to repair or upgrade their system.
This grant aid is only available if an inspector finds problems with your treatment system and gives recommendations in an advisory notice.
Households with incomes of up to €50,000 per annum will be eligible to apply for a grant of 80% of approved costs, with a maximum grant payable of €4,000. Households with incomes of between €50,001 and €75,000 will be eligible for a grant of 50% of approved costs, with a maximum grant payable of €2,500. Households with incomes over €70,000 do not qualify for grant aid.
You cannot apply for grant aid unless you receive an inspection from your local authority and subsequently fail, and you cannot ask for an inspection.
By Peter Varley Farmers Journal 7th July 2016
Water charges may have been shelved for now but there are still many farmers involved in local water schemes where water charges remain high.
For farmers involved on local water schemes, installing a rainwater harvesting system is a viable option to reduce water bills. It would be preferable to install a system that would provide potable water that can be used as drinking water for livestock and for washing out milking parlours. However, simply installing a tank that is used to collect water that can then be used to wash out slatted sheds etc, could help reduce your water bill.
Organic capital investment scheme
TAMS II offers grant aid to organic farmers for rainwater harvesting systems under the Organics Capital Investment Scheme to improve their agricultural buildings and equipment. The scheme offers 40% grant funding or 60% for young farmers, up to a ceiling of €80,000 per holding. The minimum amount of investment required to avail of grant aid is €2,000. This scheme is only open to licensed organic operators who are registered with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.
A rainwater harvesting system comprises of collection, filtering and storage of rainwater while the further treatment of collected rainwater is optional. The basic requirements for any rainwater treatment system is well-maintained, clean gutters directing the rainwater to a suitably sized and constructed holding tank from where the water is then distributed.
The components of a rainwater harvesting system are:
- Roofed area to collect rainwater.
- Clean gutters to collect rainwater from a roof.
- Rainwater downpipes in good condition.
- Filter to remove debris from rainwater.
- Covered drains to direct rainwater from gutters to storage tank, where required.
- Sump tank and sump pump where required.
- Rainwater storage tank with calmed inlet and overflow.
Only rainwater from roofs of buildings is permitted to be collected for harvesting if you wish to avail of grant aid. This water must be further treated if it is to be used as drinking water for livestock or irrigation of horticultural crops. It must also be treated if it is to be used to wash milking parlours as this water needs to be of potable standard.
Tanks can be situated either above or below ground, but must be covered with a solid cover that prevents the ingress of any dirt into the tank. Floating covers are not permitted. All tanks must also be fitted with a proprietary calmed inlet to prevent the disturbance of any sediment at the bottom of the tank. It is important that the system is set up to avoid stagnation by ensuring that pipe work connections allow the flow of water through the tanks.
All tanks must be fitted with an overflow outlet attached to a suitable clean water drainage system to allow water to discharge during storm events.
When deciding on what size tank you wish to install, it is important that it has sufficient capacity to hold between a minimum of seven days’ and a maximum of 18 days’ rainfall from the collection area. The capacity is based on the average rainfall for the location of the tank, the size of the collection area and the demand on the harvested water. Exact rainfall figures for any location can be obtained directly from Met Éireann.
Treatment of the collected rainwater is optional. However, it should be noted that unless the rainwater us treated it will not be of potable standard. As such, this means it cannot be used for washing bulk tanks or milking machines on a dairy farm. It can also not be used for feeding to lactating dairy cows. All rainwater harvesting systems must have filters installed to filter any debris from the rainwater before it enters the rainwater storage tank. They must also be proprietary self-cleaning filters, with the use of homemade filters not permitted.
The costs of a rainwater harvesting system can vary greatly. Contact O’Reilly Oakstown today to find out what the cost of your system would be.
Article By William Conlon of Farmers Journal on 07 July 2016
Engagement Strategy under the National Inspection Plan: Domestic Wastewater Treatment Systems
The EPA have just launched a new website Catchments.ie which will make it easier for people to get information about the quality of their local river, lake, estuary or the hidden waters below ground. It will also provide information about what people can do to help protect their local water catchment. Catchments.ie allows easier public access to water-related environmental data that has been gathered by the EPA and other bodies, with maps pages and nearly 5000 dynamically generated pages of data that will be updated regularly, including long term trends for many waterbodies. The site will also have stories from local communities around the country. The resource is the culmination of extensive collaboration between the EPA, local authorities and other organisations in compiling key datasets. Read Full Press Release Here.
Catchments.ie are currently running a survey on Septic Tanks and how you relate to your local catchment.
They would like to use the results of this survey to improve communication with local communities, specifically on the possible health and environmental risk from malfunctioning septic tank systems. Please help out by completing the survey on this link or clicking the button above.
Ear to the Ground with O’Reilly Oakstown demonstrating how a Septic Tank Upgrade is installed.
O’Reilly Oakstown manufacture the BAF Sewage Treatment System, Septic Tanks, Oil Water Separators, Rainwater Harvesting and Oil Theft Solutions. They are an award winning company providing Environmentally Friendly Sewage and Water treatment Products
O’Reilly Oakstown on Eco Eye featured once again on RTE television
Last time they took part in a programme filmed by the Ear to the Ground crew on upgrading an existing septic tank in Wilkinstown Co Meath. This time they are shown replacing a septic tank with their Oakstown BAF secondary treatment System in Rathfeigh, also in Meath on Duncan Stewarts’ Eco Eye on Tuesday, January 22nd.
Eco Eye, as most people know, is concerned with all the relevant environmental topics relating to building in Ireland. With the new septic tank inspections coming online this year and the promise of grants for necessary upgrades there has never been a more apt time to air this feature.
Other Meath names associated with next Tuesdays programme are Robbie Meehan, soil engineer from Navan and Gordon Mitchell from Mitchell Environmental, Kilberry
Watch it Here Now:
O’Reilly Oakstown are proud to be associated with the 20th anniversary celebration of the Filming of Braveheart in the historic town of Trim
“If you have never visited Trim with its magnificent castle and surroundings before, do yourself a favour and see it this year. It’s a fascinating tour and a great day out.”
Septic Tank Inspections no longer making the headlines – Farmers Journal 12 July 2014
The septic tank inspection regime is in place for almost a year now – but faded from the headlines! Here’s an industry view on what has happened. Diarmuid O’Reilly, managing director of O’Reilly Oakstown, which manufactures the award winning BAF range of sewage treatment systems, has spoken to the Farmers Journal this week.
I recently looked over the EPA’s National Inspection Plan for treatment of household waste. What we see from the tables in it is that:
* The targets set are quite low, ie 1002 inspections per year for the WHOLE country. Quite honestly this is a little unambitious, given the numbers of septic tanks in the country, as it could conceivably take up to 480 years to complete the programme, assuming there is a moratorium on one-offs for the next half millennium.
* Secondly, while many counties have stepped up to the mark including Limerick, Meath Westmeath, Louth and Wicklow, some had yet to start by the report date. That included Clare, Donegal, Leitrim and Offaly.
* So 423 inspections have been carried out. Of these 224 tanks failed for one reason or other, equal to 53%. Reasons given included leakage, unlicenced discharge, ponding, roofwater getting into the tank, lack of desludging, risk to health and operational/maintenance issues.
* Of the 224 advisory notices issued, only 27 had been resolve and closed off. That’s an average of one septic tank per county whose issues were resolved! Ensuring the country’s septic tanks are working properly is going to be a slow, long drawn out process!
* However, this may change as the councils get to grips with the inspection regime.
My thoughts on this, and speaking purely from a commercial point of view, is that the new regime is having no positive effect on sales and installation of new septic tanks and treatment systems and work for groundwork contractors, despite the existence of a grant of 80%, up to a maximum of €4,000 for those on incomes under €50,000 and €2,000 for incomes above this threshold.
In actual fact, it is having a negative effect as homeowners would understandably be reluctant to pay full price for upgrading their septic tank if there is is the slightest chance of grant-aid should they be inspected. And it is a very slight chance. In any one year there is a one-in -480 chance of being inspected, condemned and grant aided. There are 479 chances of not being inspected.
This is distorting the market for new septic tanks and sewage treatment systems. As much as some people want and may badly need to improve their system and possibly take advantage of two glorious summers to do so, they are restrained by the prospect of easy money and a waiver from planning permission.
One thing to realise is that this regime is not a money making scheme for local authorities, far from it. In fact, it is a drain on their resources, which is not reimbursed from central funding, as far as we are aware.
Since the announcement that grant aid is available after inspection, should ones’ septic tank or percolation fail, public opinion has gone from initial resistance to inspections to openly welcoming them in many cases. Self- generation of inspections is not allowed, however, as county councils insist that they are strictly randomly generated.
New homeowners protected
While the inspection of existing septic tanks will be a slow process, a lot of progress has been made in raising the standards of sewage treatment for new-build houses. Gone are the days when the septic tank was an afterthought, often cobbled together from a couple of well liners followed by a perfunctory “soakhole” filled what ever rubble was left over from the build.
Now the treatment of sewage is the primary consideration. In other words, if you cannot percolate- you cannot even begin to plan to build. This is to ensure that, whatever type of system is installed, the final effluent can be dispersed effectively without posing a risk to health or property.
The current regulations for single house on-site sewage disposal operates in three distinct stages.
- Planning application/ system design stage: This is largely dealt with in the Department of Environments Code of Practice 2009 (CoP2009). It ensures an effective treatment system and percolation area / polishing filter is part of the initial planning of any house.
- Construction / certification stage: The septic tank / wastewater treatment system must comply with part H of the Building regulations 2010. Furthermore the installation and percolation area must be in accordance with the design granted at planning stage. Put plainly, this ensures that what is planned for is actually built. That protects the homeowner.
- Operation / Maintenance stage- The Water Services Amendment Act 2012 sets out the responsibilities of an owner of an on-site sewage tank/system.
All this and more can be found on the website of the Irish Water Treatment Association- www.IWTA.ie. The IWTA is dedicated to raising standards and ethics in effluent treatment, something which is critically important when you consider how long you expect a wastewater treatment system to serve a house, ie a lifetime!
You can change a cheap washing machine or dishwasher relatively easily when it fails, however a bargain basement sewage treatment system would be costly to replace.
Tax relief for homeowners
Another welcome development is the Home Renovation Scheme which offers tax relief to homeowners for home improvements. One of the areas covered under this broad scheme is repair or replacement of a septic tank, provided that it is the homeowner’s own house.
Take an example. A home owner pays €3,500 plus VAT for a new treatment system and another €1,500 for the related groundwork, both VAT rated at 13.5% and both companies tax compliant.
The homeowner can reclaim €675 against future taxable income, calculated as €3,500 + €1,500 x 13.5%. While, in this case, the saving is less than the grant available under the NIP grant scheme, it is available to everyone. It can also be combined with work by other contractors on a house to a maximum of €30,000, giving a tax saving of over €4,000. In addition it allows the homeowner take control of when they wish to do the upgrade work, rather than waiting – or hoping – for an inspection! So, some good news for homeowners for once!
Newly Released Nitto Blowers
O’Reilly Oakstown have just received the first consignment of the new Nitto LA-60ECO blower for Aerobic Sewage Treatment Systems. These blowers have been eagerly anticipated by the wastewater treatment industry as they combine incredible reliability with an economy unparalleled by any other manufacturer- a power consumption of only 35 Watts. Quite extraordinary. This is the future of energy-efficient domestic sewage treatment.