Malfunctioning septic tanks systems are posing great risks to people's health, and the environment in the Republic of Ireland. 

Nearly half of septic tank systems failed inspection in both 2017 and 2018, which poses a great risk to human health and the environment. As a part of addressing the issue, the government has proposed to expand the septic tank scheme, but householders need to fix these malfunctioning systems as a way of attacking it from both sides. 

In July 2019, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a review of over 2,000 inspections of septic tanks and other domestic waste water treatment systems, throughout 2017 and 2018. It was found that nearly half the systems failed inspection, as a result of being built or maintained incorrectly. These faulty systems can contaminate household wells and pollute rivers, so householders have been advised to take advantage of the proposed expanded grant scheme when it becomes available, as a way to help address the problem. 

Dr. Tom Ryan, the Director of the EPA's Office of Environmental Enforcement has said, "If you do not maintain your septic tank, it can contaminate your own or your neighbour’s well or your local stream, putting your health at risk and that of your family and neighbours. You can take simple steps to maintain your septic tank by making sure it is not leaking, ponding or discharging to ditches and by cleaning it out regularly".

Of all the systems that had failed the 2013 report, a third had still not been fixed by 2018, proving that local authorities need to take appropriate measures so they can ensure that householders fix systems that have failed inspection. 

The Senior Scientist in the EPA's Office of Environmental Enforcement, Noel Byrne states, "it is important that householders fix systems where problems are detected. To improve water quality, the government’s proposed expanded septic tank grant scheme, due to be launched later this year, will increase the maximum grant aid available to €5000 and remove the means test requirements”.

Are you wondering why we're discussing legislation in the Republic of Ireland? Watch this space...

Scientists have said that July equalled, and may have possibly beaten the hottest month seen on record. 

All across the world, we saw the entire month surpassing the hottest month that was available on record, at least equal to the highest temperatures we have seen. This, revealed by the World Meteorological Organisation, has followed the hottest June on record. Scientists have calculated that the one-in-a-thousand-year event was made 100 times more likely by human-driven climate change.

Usually the extreme heat is associated with and expected by the El Niño year, the phenomenon often grouped with prolonged temperature surges, but this is not one. Scientists instead suggest that it has been driven to a large extent by the carbon emissions from car exhausts, chimney emissions in power plants, burning forests and other human sources. 

It was found that the extreme heat in both the Netherlands and France, where temperatures reached above 40°, were made at least 10 times, and possibly over 100 times more possible as a result of climate change. The entirety of the UK saw the impact of climate change as being two to three more times likely to have affected the heat, in fact the studied locations would have seen a 1.5 to 3° difference if there was no effect from climate change. 

While temperature records were broken in many countries, there was also the associated impacts to think about. Wildfires devastated vast areas of Siberia, the Greenland ice sheet is melting at a nearly record rate, and the risks of drought occurring has grown more acute across wide areas of Central and Eastern Europe. 

However these records will not stand, as it is highly likely they will be beaten in a couple of years. This extreme heat will have an impact on human beings, with effective heat emergency plans, and accurate weather forecasts being crucial to reduce and anticipate possible risks. 

The UN secretary general, António Guterres has said the seasons are moving alarmingly far from their usual path. "We have always lived through hot summers, but this is not the summer of our youth. This is not your grandfather’s summer”.

"Preventing irreversible climate disruption is the race of our lives, and for our lives. It is a race that we can and must win".

The five year period of 2015-19 is expected to be the warmest ever, with the World Meteorological Organisation's secretary general, Petteri Taalas saying, "unprecedented wildfires raged in the Arctic for the second consecutive month, devastating once pristine forests which used to absorb carbon dioxide and instead turning them into fiery sources of greenhouse gases. This is not science fiction. It is the reality of climate change. It is happening now and it will worsen in the future without urgent climate action".

Two companies have been fined this week after a contractor suffered permanent damage to his eyesight following a fall.

Dudley Magistrates' Court heard how in April 2016 a contractor, who worked for Kingswinford Engineering Co Limited, had been hired to repair a section of pipework on the roof of a warehouse, owned by James Durrans & Sons', when he slipped and fell, banging his head. The worker suffers permanent blindness to one eye and blurred vision in the other, resulting from his head injury.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found multiple failings in relation to how the work, specifically access to the roof, was planned, managed and monitored. In particular, neither company had undertaken a suitable and sufficient risk assessment, nor had they agreed a safe system of work for the repair of the pipework, which required access to the roof.

Kingswinford Engineering Co Limited pleaded guilty to breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, and has been fined £100,000 and ordered to pay costs of £20,000.

HSE inspector Edward Fryer commented, “this incident highlights the need for contractors to be managed properly. Both the contractors and those engaging them must assess the risks of the site and the specific work to ensure it can be done safely. In this case, no risk assessment was carried out and arrangements made to access the roof put workers at significant risk of falling from height leading to this worker suffering a life-changing injury.”

Network Rail has submitted a planning application for a railway sleeper production facility in Bescot.

While preparing the submission, the organisation engaged with local people and politicians, including briefings, public information events and meeting with residents at their homes to discuss the plans.

The feedback helped shape the final planning application, which will be decided by Sandwell Borough Council.

Changes from the original plan include:

  • relocating the proposed site 600m to the east, putting it further away from local properties;
  • building a link road to improve access and remove the impact of vehicles on adjacent homes.

The new facility is part of Britain's Railway Upgrade Plan. It is expected to create 150 construction jobs locally, and up to 100 permanent jobs at the site and in the local supply chain. Network Rail estimate that 90% of construction spent on the project will be through local businesses.

Anthony Marley, project director at Network Rail said, "this new facility will bring millions of pounds to the local economy and support hundreds of jobs in the West Midlands. We have already seen significant interest in these jobs, with approximately half of respondents welcoming these new employment prospects. We will continue to work with Sandwell council as our application progresses".

Sleepers are currently manufactured at two locations in Britain, Doncaster and Washwood Heath in Birmingham. The Washwood Heath site is due to close, which is why there is a requirement for a new facility.

The common blue butterfly could be booming in the UK thanks to recent spells of hot weather, according to a conservation charity.

Experts are predicting that the July heatwave and Met Office forecasts for above-average temperatures in August might mean that the common blue has its "best ever summer", according to Butterfly Conservation.

The butterfly has been struggling for the last 40 years, according to the charity, but common blue populations increased by 104% in the summer of 2018 compared with the previous year, thanks to warm weather.

Last summer, overall butterfly numbers were up 110% on 2017 in England and 94% in Wales, according to the charity.

The top of the male common blue's wings are bright blue and unmarked, whereas females have orange crescents and dark spots near the edge of their wings that vary from purple to dark brown, with a tinge of blue near to the body.

Butterfly Conservation is urging people to help monitor the common blue by taking part in the Big Butterfly Count population survey. Participants are asked to spend 15 minutes in the sun counting every butterfly they see before submitting their sightings online. This runs until the 11 August.

Corinne Pluchino, chief executive of the Campaign for National Parks said, "this is a great opportunity to help chart the progress of this beautiful blue butterfly and we'd love to know where our top common blue colonies are".

A company that manufactures absorbent products has been fined after an agency worker suffered a life-changing injury to her hand when it was caught in a rotating fan blade.

Manchester Magistrates' Court heard how in October 2017 an agency worker was on her second shift at the NPS Worldwide UK Limited site in Oldham. While removing a blockage inside the filling machine she had been operating, her fingers became caught in an unguarded rotating fan.

The agency worker:

  • lost parts of all of her fingers on her right hand;
  • sustained extensive scarring to her stomach following an unsuccessful attempt to generate new skin growth to save her fingers;
  • continues to suffer post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of the incident and the injuries sustained.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found the fan had not been suitably guarded, putting employees and agency workers at risk. The company had failed to carry out a suitable risk assessment and provide adequate information, instruction and training to workers. No first aid provision was available on the night shift when the incident occurred, and this contributed to the injured person suffering further, as incorrect first aid was administered.

NPS Worldwide UK Limited pleaded guilty to breaching the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and the Health and Safety (First Aid) Regulations SI 1981/917. The company was fined £28,000 and ordered to pay costs of £7,771.

HSE inspector Sharon Butler said, "this injury could have easily been prevented and the risk should have been identified".

"Employers must make sure they properly assess and apply effective control measures to minimise the risk from dangerous parts of machinery".

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