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.
We are delighted to add Ecoflo Tertiary Treatment Filter – domestic and commercial applications – to our range of products.
A reliable wastewater treatment system well adapted to all site conditions. Proven performances surpassing the strictest standards.
A permanent and ecological solution – no energy needed for the treatment. Pre-assembled, easy-to-handle units to ensure quality installations and less surplus material transported to sites.
Minimal final footprint – ideal when the available area for the installation is limited or if separation distances must be reduced.
Delivered ready to be installed to minimize civil works and eliminate construction on site. No excavation or relocation at the end of the life cycle of the filtering media (up to 15 years).
Complies with the ePa Code of Practice 2009
Example of applications include:
- Residential, domestic properties
- Rental or Holiday homes
- New housing developments
- Existing systems with issues
- Areas of sensitive surroundings
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Some of our paving products include:
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Kerbs and complimentary products
To add the finishing touch to your paving, we have a range of kerbs that can be used for edgings or in the construction of steps. Features such as circles or setts can add dramatically enhance the area.
We manufacture 80mm thick block paving which is suitable for commercial applications.
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Have you completed a septic tank system check?
Maintaining your wastewater system will help to protect your health and the local environment. Read below information on SystemSafe from the Environmental Health Agency
How a septic tank system treats your wastewater
1. Everything you flush down the toilet and send down the sinks, showers and washing machine or dishwasher ends up in your septic tank system.
2. Wastewater flows from the house to the septic tank. The solids and scum form sludge in the tank and this needs to be removed regularly.
3. Liquid effluent (wastewater) percolates down from the pipes through the soil in your garden into the percolation area. The soil itself helps filter out the bacteria before making its way to the groundwater in the bedrock below. This is the same groundwater that supplies water for any local wells.
“A well maintained system in the right site with the right soil conditions will protect your health, your local environment and your pocket.”
Planning a wastewater system, including a septic tank system
When you are installing the plumbing in ￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼your house and wastewater system, which includes septic tanks and packaged systems, you should make sure that the grey water from sinks, showers and washing machines drains into the wastewater system.
Do not allow rainwater from roofing into the wastewater system because it will flush out the solids which may block the percolation area or sit on the ground surface. Divert to a soakaway, which is a pit filled with stones into which clean water drains.
Do not put driveways or paved areas over the percolation area because they can damage the underlying pipes. The percolation area is the area of the ground where the wastewater drains and filters through the soil.
Check your wastewater system every year
Every year, check your wastewater system for signs of sewage. Check:
• all manholes for blockages
• unwanted pools of water (ponding)
• sewage in nearby ditches and streams.
Use a permitted contractor to empty your wastewater system
- Contact your local authority for a list of contractors.
- You are required by law to keep records of sludge removal and maintenance for five years.
- If you are a farmer with your own land, you can spread the sludge but only in accordance with the Waste Management (Use of Sewage Sludge in Agriculture) Regulations.
What is the difference between a septic tank system and a packaged treatment system?
A septic tank system depends more on the soil in the percolation area to treat wastewater. A packaged treatment system relies less on the soil but has more mechanical parts to treat the wastewater. Packaged treatment systems, therefore, need more maintenance. Sludge has to be removed from both types of systems.
Conserve water by using water-saving devices such as high-efficiency showerheads that don’t leak and garden hose shut-off nozzles.
Avoid sink waste disposal units
Do not use sink waste disposal units as they can increase the amount of waste by one third and result in additional maintenance.
Watch what you put down the sink
Do not pour fat and grease or hazardous chemicals like pesticides and paints down the sink. They can block the pipes and kill the good bacteria.
Watch what you flush
Do not flush non-degradable products down the toilet, for example, feminine care products, nappies, condoms or wipes because they can block the pipes and percolation area, or get caught in moving parts such as pumps
Be careful with cleaning substances
Do not overuse bleach and disinfectants because they can kill the good bacteria in the system.
Your well may be at risk from your wastewater system
Test your private well water every year after heavy rain as contamination is likely to be high at this time. Contact your local authority or HSE environmental health officer for advice on water testing.
“In order for something to become clean, something else must become dirty”
Frequently asked Questions
What are my responsibilities as a homeowner?
The law obliges you to make sure your system is installed, operated and maintained in a way that makes sure it doesn’t pose a risk to human health and the environment.
What is the sludge in the system?
All of the wastewaters from your home go into your system. The sludge is a build-up of all solids.
Why do I need to remove the sludge from my septic tank system?
The sludge must not build up too much or your system will stop working properly. 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 – an expensive option! It could also cause a risk to human health and the environment.
How often should I remove the sludge from my system?
Research is ongoing to provide more specific advice, but the sludge should be removed from the tank when the sludge takes up more than half of the liquid depth in the tank or at least every five years. A minimum of 75 mm 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.
Who can remove the sludge from your system?
If you are a farmer with your own land, you can spread the sludge from your own wastewater system but only but only in accordance with the Waste Management (Use of Sewage Sludge in Agriculture) Regulations. If you do not have your own land, you must get the sludge removed by a permitted contractor.
Where does the sludge go?
Permitted contractors bring the sludge to authorised facilities for treatment. Details on permitted contractors operating in your county are available from your local authority
Around 500,000 households in Ireland have a wastewater system that includes septic tanks and packaged systems. About 137,000 of these also have a private well for drinking water. Since 2013, all homeowners with a wastewater system must be registered with their local authority (LA). The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is an independent public body. We are responsible for supervising local authorities when they inspect wastewater systems. We do this to ensure that the systems are suitable and well maintained.
A quarter of wastewater systems (25%) inspected failed the LAs inspection due to poor operation and poor maintenance. Poorly maintained wastewater systems can affect your drinking water especially from private wells. Many people assume that their private well water is safe to drink and don’t treat it or get it tested. They shouldn’t because a recent study found that E.coli, which can cause serious illness, is present in almost a third (29%) of Irish private wells.
For more information, contact your local environment section or visit www.maintainyourseptictank.ie
Download ‘Have you completed a septic tank system check‘ PDF from SystemSafe
Are you building a new home? If you are building your dream home it’s natural that Sewage Treatment may not be a priority! However it is now vital more than ever before to consider the status of your septic tank.
It is important that you pick a wastewater treatment system that will last the lifetime of your house!
If your septic tank is poorly functioning and your sewage system fails, you could face the inconvenience if having to upgrade or replace it.
1. You need it to be structurally sound to withstand typical Irish ground conditions – this means using a Concrete built system, which are certified in excess of 50 years
2. You need an economical operation – the new generation of low watt blowers cost as little as 8c per day to run!
3. Certification – proof that it does as it says! Ireland top engineers recommend O’Reilly Oakstown
Most importantly you need reliability – we only use top class components backed by a dedicated service team to guarantee your peace of mind
Watch our video below to find out what you need to consider when getting a wastewater treatment system for your new home.
Paula from O’Reilly Oakstown and her little 2 year old daughter Ciara presenting the cheque of €1,000 to Dr. Pat O’Toole in Crumlin Children’s Hospital. This was raised by the O’Reilly Group participating in the Christmas Charity Day 2016.
Straight Ahead is a medical support group affiliated to the CMRF, which provides surgery, support and medical equipment for children with orthopaedic conditions.Straight Ahead is resourced through fundraising, donations and voluntary labor.
The Straight Ahead initiative operates on a voluntary basis, with administrative support from the CMRF. Surgeons perform the operations pro-bono. The Chairman and Board of the charity give their time and expertise for free. Working together, Straight Ahead is changing the lives of children who might otherwise have to wait longer for surgery or treatment.
Check out straightaheadireland.ie for any info you need
Fundraising at Christmas in O’Reilly Oakstown
O’Reilly Oakstown Service & Maintenance Contracts
In order to ensure your system is working at its best and ensure no damage to the system, Waste Water Treatments should be serviced and inspected on a regular basis throughout the year by qualified technicians. Once a problem arises the call out charges and inspections can cost much more than having an annual contract which ensures the home owner peace of mind that their system is working optimally.
We are now offering excellent annual contracts and if you book and pay for a Service, we can upgrade you to an Annual Contract that entitles you to:
– Waste Water Treatment System serviced
– Emergency Call out Facility
– Annual Inspection & Service of System
– Yearly Contracts Available
– Technical Support included
– From only €225 per year
Call us now on 0469431389 or Lo Call 1850200702 or complete the form below and we will call you back.
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.