Septic Tank Regulations
Is my system compliant?
As of January 2020, the new Environment Agency (EA) regulations for wastewater came into force. These rules have been put in place to reduce the pollution flowing into our waterways.
If your septic tank discharges directly into a watercourse you will need to take action as soon as possible. This is to ensure you conform to the septic tank regulations outlined here.
Isn’t my septic tank already clean?
Actually, no, unless you have drainage field, the waste from your toilets and sinks goes into the tank, the solids sink and the untreated effluent (left over liquids) is discharged to the environment, contaminating the waterways.
What are my options?
There are three main ways to meet the new regulations:
- Connect to a mains sewer where available. If your septic tank was installed since 1 January 2015 then you must connect to the sewer if it is within 30 metres (this distance increases if you have multiple properties). Check with the EA for full details.
- Install a drainage field where the soil bacteria naturally clean the polluted effluent. If you have the space to do this and your soil is suitable, then this means you can keep your septic tank. There are rules regarding the volume of discharge and proximity to water courses, bore holes, wells and buildings so we recommend taking advice before pursuing this option. Additionally, if this system is in a designated sensitive area it is likely EA licence is required.
- Replace your septic tank with a sewage treatment plant where oxygenated micro-organisms treat the liquids to make it clean enough to enter a flowing stream or river. Building Regulations approval is required.
Each of these options have their own regional guidelines to follow and we recommend contacting the EA for advice.
If I want to install sewage treatment system, what do I do if I don’t have a watercourse on my property?
Not everyone has a stream or ditch running across their property and if space and soil allows, a drainage field will be needed. Before attempting to install these, the ground will need to be tested for suitability – e.g. clay soils or waterlogged ground are not suitable. The drainage field works in two ways, firstly it soaks away the liquid from your system through perforated pipes in gravel filled trenches and then naturally occurring aerobic bacteria treats the wastewater. Unfortunately, drainage fields do not last indefinitely and will eventually need replacing.
What are my options if I don’t have space or the correct soil for a drainage field?
If you are in an area where no other solutions are possible, alternative methods will need to be reviewed. For example, a cesspool is simply an underground tank that stores your waste without discharging to the environment and requires regular emptying.
Do any changes I make need planning permission?
If you are installing a new waste management system then you will need building regulations approval. You may also need planning permission but this is subject to the individual situation.
Am I responsible for my septic tank or treatment system?
You are responsible for conforming to the general binding rules if you are an operator. This is typically true if you’re the property owner using the septic tank, although other agreements my be in place see here to see if you are classed as the operator of the septic tank.
What are my options for a durable solution?
The long-lasting solution is to replace your septic tank with a sewage treatment system. The benefits of the treatment system are many; the most important being that it is non-polluting as naturally occurring bacteria treats the sewage, so the liquid is clean enough to go into a watercourse. This means the systems are low maintenance, have low running costs, are discrete and have near silent operation – there are even electric-free solutions which are completely silent.
Don’t forget to have your system regularly emptied and maintained
To get the best from your system ensure you follow the usage guides of what you should and should not flush into your system. Importantly, make sure it is regularly maintained according to the manufacturer guidelines to keep it at optimum performance. Click here to download the British Water Guide for Users of Packaged Wastewater Treatment Plants.