septic tank new regulations

NEW REGULATIONS for Private Sewage Systems including Septic Tanks

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:

  1. Connect the property to mains sewers
  2. Install a small sewage treatment plant where only treated sewage is discharged
  3. 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

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

Environment Agency Permit

A permit is required when:

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.

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