Tuesday, 7 April 2020
NEW REGULATIONS for Private Sewage Systems
Since the start of 2020, new rules have required any private sewage systems, such as septic tanks, that discharge water directly into a water course be upgraded. Anyone with a small sewage treatment tank or septic tank, must comply with the ‘general binding rules’ ensuring that all systems in the UK are properly maintained and do not cause pollution.
As of the 1st January 2020, existing septic tanks that discharge directly to surface water, i.e. into a stream, ditch or river, must be upgraded and no longer discharge in this way. There are three options for upgrading. These are:
- Connect the property to mains sewers
- Install a small sewage treatment plant where
only treated sewage is discharged
- Install a drainage field
If considering a sale of your property in 2020, the upgrade
to the system must occur before the sale is completed. In some cases, planning
permission may be required to install a sewage treatment system and in the case
of all system upgrades, building regulations approval must be sought if a new
septic tank or treatment system is to be installed. In addition to having
permission, the new system must comply with the ‘general binding rules.’
What are Septic Tanks & Small Sewage Treatment Plants?
If a home or business is not linked to mains sewage systems,
waste water from the building – for example the shower, toilet, kitchen or
household appliances will drain into a septic tank, small sewage treatment
plant or cesspit.
Septic tanks are underground tanks where solids form a
sludge at the bottom, whilst liquids discharge into a drainage field where
bacteria treat it as it soaks away. Tanks are not allowed to discharge straight
into the watercourse – such as a stream or river.
Small Sewage Treatment Plants
Similar to a septic tank, a treatment plant aerates the
bacteria using mechanical parts, meaning the residue can be discharged into a
drainage field or directly into flowing water. These systems are no longer
allowed to use a soakaway designed for rainwater, a well or a borehole to discharge
effluent to the ground. If an existing system does include the use of a soak
away, it must be changed to a drainage field or a permit from the Environment
Agency must be applied for.
Cesspit or Cespool
In the case of a cesspit, raw sewage is stored in a sealed
tank instead of being treated and discharged. These systems are not covered by
the general binding rules, but must stay sealed, emptied when full, and never
allowed to overflow or leak.
General Binding Rules Summary for Compliance
- Have the system emptied regularly – usually every 12-months unless the system is very large.
- Use a registered waste carrier company and request a copy of the company’s waster carrier certificate before the tank is emptied. Copies of certificates should be kept as it is the property owner’s responsibility to used an authorised, certified carrier.
- A maximum of 2000 litres a day of treated sewage may be discharged into a drainage field or 5000 litres a day into flowing water. If more is discharged, a permit will be required.
- Septic tanks must meet British Standard BS EN 12566-1, or for drainage fields, BS6297:2007. Owners should discuss plans with the Environment Agency before beginning a replacement of a non-compliant system to check if a permit is required and to the local authority to check the system meets planning requirements and building regulations.
- The system must meet the British Standard in place at the time of installation, be marked with CE, or the documentation that came with the system has a BS certificate of compliance, or the tank is on the British Water’s list of approved equipment for BS EN 12566-1.
- All systems, regardless of age, must comply with the General Binding Rules. Systems installed before 1983 will predate the BS system and will therefore not have to meet the British Standard. However, any leaks, blocks or cracks in any tank, irrespective of age or type, must be investigated and repaired by a competent person.
- The size of the tank must be appropriate for the property it is linked to. If further properties are added to the tank, the volumes and size of the tank must be recalculated.
- Special rules apply for discharge into the Groundwater Protection Zone 1 or if the discharge is within 50m of a private water supply source and a permit must be applied for from the Environment Agency.
- A permit is required if the system is within 50m of a Site of Special Scientific Interest.
- If you are installing a new system, within 30m of the public sewer, you must connect to it.
- When selling your property, written confirmation of the presence of the septic tank or small sewage treatment plant must be presented, giving full details.
- All new tanks require Building Regulations approval and unless a like-for-like tank is being installed, planning consent is also likely to be required. The local authority will advise on this.
Environment Agency Permit
A permit is required when:
- Your property discharges over 2000 litres to the ground or 5000 litres per day into flowing water. The average person produces 150 litres per day.
- Discharge is into a watercourse, well, borehole or soakaway designed for rainwater.
- If the discharge is into a Groundwater Protection Zone 1.
- If you are within 30m of the public sewer but feel you are unable to connect to it.
- You are within 50m of a designated landscape, such as ancient woodland, Special Protection Areas or Sites of Special Scientific Interest, amongst others.
Support for Property Owners
If you require advice or support on the sewage system of your property, the adherence to these new rules or are taking on a property with a small sewage treatment plant, please contact our team who will be able to support you through any planning requirements or upgrades to the system.