The 2020 Septic Tank Rule changes
Septic Tanks, Sewage Treatment Plants, and other off mains wastewater solutions are very common in the countryside. Most regulatory change has progressed as old systems fail and require replacement. However, a new body of legislation was passed into law on the 1st of January 2015.
This new body of law looks to cover all off-mains wastewater discharges both commercial and domestic in nature. This new law required users to register their discharge via a permit application unless it was classified as a small sewage discharge. The Environment Agency (EA) set a daily discharge limit in litres that determine if a discharge is classified as small. If an owner’s discharge is classified as small then the owner is expected to self-regulate by complying with a set of rules.
This set of rules is known as the General Binding Rules (GBR). Please see the following article for detailed information Summary of the General Binding Rules for Septic Tanks and Sewage treatment plants. The objective of the law was to get a register of and control all sewage discharges over the small threshold. In addition, it looked to require the users of systems considered as too polluting to replace these systems. This article is focusing on a part of this new legislation that required all operators with discharges classified as small and that discharge to a stream, ditch, river or lake to only do so using a Sewage Treatment Plant that meets certain standards. Users were given until the 1st of January 2020 to ensure their systems were compliant. At that point, it became illegal to discharge in an alternate way, say via a Septic Tank. The user is classified as being responsible and liable.
How to determine if your discharge is classified as small?
To determine if your discharge is classified as small you need to first assess where your system discharges to. This is critical so if you are unsure please give us a call. The two classifications are to Ground and to Surface Water. To Ground is just that into the ground via a soakaway, drainage field, or such. To Surface Water is to a river, lake, ditch, or stream. If you discharge to the ground your daily allowable discharge volume to be able to qualify as having a small discharge is 2m3. The limit for a discharge to surface water is 5m3.
The volume is calculated based on the British Water flows and loads document. For residential property, each user is estimated to create 150litres of discharge per day. Users are calculated based on the number of bedrooms. A 3 bedroom house is classified as having 5 users so generates 750 liters a day or 0.75m3. 4 beds 0.9m3, 5 beds 1.05m3, and so on, multiple properties are more complex, the EA have a discharge calculator on their site.
So in summary if your volume of discharge is classified as small you do not need to apply for a permit you must instead self-regulate by complying with the GBRs. If you discharge to the ground then please see the article linked above, this article now only looks at those with a small discharge to surface water.
What are the rules for existing small sewage discharges to surface water?
To qualify as an existing discharge you need to have been discharging via the system before the 1st of January 2015. The full list of the applicable rules can be found in Appendix 1 below the video. The key rules are Rule 4: Must not cause pollution of Surface Water or Groundwater and critically Rule 6: Use the correct treatment system.
Rule 6 details that you must use a small sewage treatment plant (STP) to treat the sewage if you’re discharging to a watercourse such as a river or a stream. A sewage treatment plant, also known as a package treatment plant, treats sewage to a higher standard than a traditional septic tank. More detail is given in Rule 9: Make sure your treatment system meets the right British Standard. This details that your system must meet the relevant British Standard (BS). The relevant standard for STPs is BS EN 12566 for small sewage treatment plants.
This means that if you want to continue to discharge to Surface Water then you will need to install an STP that conforms to BS EN 12566. The deadline for existing users to conform to the rule was the 1st of January 2020. If you continue to discharge via a non-conforming system then you are liable for action from the Environment Agency. Your alternative courses of action are to divert your discharge to the ground via a BS 6297:2007 for drainage field or connect to the mains. If you have a severe lack of space then the EA, via a permit application, may consider a non BS Septic Tank conversion unit. Our advice would be to avoid these units for more a economical medium term outlook.
Appendix 1 : Summary of All of the General Binding Rules
I am not sure if I discharge to a drainage ditch, stream or watercourse?
If you are not sure how or where your current system discharges to then you need to find out. Firstly speak to your neighbours as they are local experts. Secondly, have a look around the perimeter of the property is there a ditch or river, etc. If you cannot see one it is unlikely you discharge to one.
We are happy to help so give us a call and we might be able to help over the phone. If not we can pop in if you are relatively local. Sometimes a camera survey may be required but usually not.
Buying a house with a Septic Tank
If you are buying a house with a Septic Tank sewage treatment plant you need to get it surveyed by an expert. Obviously I am biased but seriously it could cost you a serious amount of cash if it needs replacing. Check out our survey page.
Another company has told me I need my drainage field, soakaway or discharge to ground changing by 1st of January 2020.
Walk away this is not true and the objective of the company is likely to be to incorrectly sell you a solution. The General Binding Rules do state that as of the 1st of January 2015 a septic tank needs to have a drainage field. You are highly unlikely to have a drainage field as defined by the 2010 building regulations H2. That much is true, along with 90% of septic tank owners. However, the EA has not included this in their 1st of January 2020 rules.
At present, I am trying to get some clarity on this element from the Environment Agency. I will update once we have some guidance.
Want to learn more?
We have a large collection of articles containing the answer to all of your questions. Check out our Blog Page
Our Core Services: The Sewage Treatment expert Installers
On the 1st January 2020, all Septic Tanks that discharge to a Stream, Watercourse or Drainage Ditch will become illegal and will require replacing with a Sewage Treatment Plant. Please see here for more details.
Expert wastewater treatment engineers who specialise in Septic Tank and Soakaway replacements as well as Sewage Treatment Installations. We are based in the New Forest, Hampshire but operate across the South Coast as well as Wiltshire, Somerset, Devon, Sussex, Surrey, Oxfordshire, and Berkshire.
The Home of Septic tank and private drainage system solutions.
Based in the New Forest, Hampshire on the border with Dorset and Wiltshire we operate an expert team of off-mains drainage specialists. This encompasses Septic Tank, Soakaway and drainage system problems, installations, blockages, and servicing. In addition, any issues relating to cesspits and sewage treatment plants.
Homeseptic offers high quality, professional advice, repairs and installation for all aspects of effluent cleansing and disposal across the south of England. Whether you’re looking for septic tank installation, sewerage treatment plants or systems, piping or soakaway solutions, Homeseptic employs only the most competent engineers in the drainage and treatment industry and knows exactly which solutions suit each property.
We only install and offer quality systems we believe in, from suppliers we know and trust.
New Forest Philosophy
As we have said Homeseptic is based in the New Forest. A great location in between the cities of Southampton, Salisbury and Bournemouth. We are a group of good friends who grew up together in the area. Individually we all have grown tired of the way other Drainage firms are run. As a result, this is why we set up Homeseptic. If you want to know more please check out our About Page
We want to actually put the customer first and turn up to do a great job that we can be proud of. Unfortunately, this is not the case in the market, with most companies pressuring their workers to sell unnecessary works on a visit. Due to this, we offer upfront quotations with any variations discussed before we start work.
We are honest hard working professionals, which we hope you will agree with. As a result, it will certainly not turn up in flash sales vehicles and give you a load of chat and then do a terrible job. Our team will come with the job in mind and the aim of giving you the best value we can in order to facilitate a quality installation.
We cover all of Hampshire, West Sussex, Dorset, Somerset, and Wiltshire. Please get in touch and see what you think.