Waste Water Treatment Research In Leitrim

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Leitrim PPN initiated research on waste water treatment options for single houses in 2018.

The academic research project was carried out by the IT Sligo Department of Civil Engineering and Construction.

This was done in co-operation with Leitrim County Council.

The research explored waste water treatment options for housing in rural areas.

This was as a direct result of concerns from the community being raised through Leitrim PPN.

Members subsequently sanctioned the exploration of potential research solutions.

It was agreed that the proposal would look at the following:

  • current research and publications on domestic waste water treatment
  • current systems that match the regulations and viable alternatives
  • the issues relating to soil properties in County Leitrim, and other areas that limit planning permissions within the regulations.

It has also emerged that while the Environmental Protection Agency’s Code of Practice governing planning around waste water treatment had been reviewed and may be subject to change, it has not been re-issued.

No guidance has been provided as to whether or not greater T-values (the time it takes water to percolate into the soil) may be used.

Local Authorities are adhering to the original Code of Practice.

Without a revised Code of Practice from the EPA, the parameters within which planning operates remain the same as before.


While this was an academic research project and the actual finished document is a private dissertation, the conclusions are summarised here.

One conclusion is that there are very few sustainable options that are actually suitable for the site conditions in rural County Leitrim.

Other conclusions may be summarised as follows:

  • The Zero Discharge system discussed are a practical solution to the problem of poor soil percolations, but these systems are too costly-as evidenced by removal of applications.
  • Evapotranspiration willow systems are not fully zero discharge in Ireland due to the high rainfall and low evapotranspiration rates during the winter.
  • The clustering of houses is a sustainable system and is the most cost friendly (apart from connection to existing sewer) of the systems researched-but it is not suitable for Leitrim having only one town with population greater than 1,500 people.
  • In terms of the Draft EPA Code Of Practice, the Pressurised Pipe systems are the systems with the highest potential for success in Leitrim. These systems are practically suitable for many existing and potential sites in Leitrim, but they are a relatively costly and land intensive to construct and monitor initially and only solve the issue of the soil up to the value of 120.
  • However, the Drip-Dispersal system can be used at the Percolation value of between 90 and 120.
  • Recommendation-that the EPA needs to attempt to be more lenient and site specific in the application of their regulations regarding Domestic Waster Water Treatment Systems.
  • The Draft Code Of Practice does show some progress in their understanding of the issues, but more work has to be completed as part of the EPA in order to allow for more options for counties like Leitrim where the soil quality is relatively poor in terms of permeability.
  • It is important to note that the EPA’s biggest concern is protecting the environment and this must be remembered when asking for their regulations to become more lenient. The people of Leitrim hope that regulations will be made more lenient, but it must be remembered that protecting the environment is extremely important.
  • A grant supplied from the Government for assistance in the development of houses with the use of Zero discharge systems could also be investigated as it would lead to an increase and sustainability of the rural areas of counties, especially Leitrim. These Zero discharge systems are also very environmentally friendly systems.

For further information on the research project CLICK HERE

The potential for a second phase of study will be explored in December or January 2020 and we will provide an update when this is available.

We would like to thank Dr Brian McCann and  Mr Jason Walsh, Centre for Environmental Research, Innovation and Sustainability (CERIS) IT Sligo and Mr Bernard Greene, Senior Planner, and staff, Leitrim County Council.

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