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Homeseptic’s guide to Septic Tank Regulations

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A Guide to Septic Tank Regulation

 Get in contact with us on 0800 3101092  or via our Contact Page

What do the new 2020 Septic tank rules mean? Do I need to replace my septic tank?

New rules were introduced in 2014 and then came into force on the 1st of January 2015.  The primary objective was to stop all direct discharges from Septic Tanks directly to surface water, effectively raw sewage going into our rivers. Surface water refers to rivers, streams, ditches, canals, etc. The secondary piece was to regulate all new and replacement discharges to ground. If your system was installed and discharging before 31 December 2014 you have an ‘existing discharge’. If your system was installed and discharging on or after 1 January 2015 you have a ‘new discharge’.

Should you have an existing discharge direct to a watercourse you would have needed to replace or upgrade your system by 1 January 2020. This will mean installing a Sewerage Treatment plant, redirecting to a Drainage Field/ Soakaway or connecting to the mains. More recently the Environment Agency have said that if you move into a new property you have 12 months to ensure it is compliant. 

For more detail please see the General binding rules: small sewage discharge to surface water. or obviously better our Summary of the General Binding Rules.

Trying to sell your property with an existing discharge?

You will need to deal with the replacement or upgrade as a condition of sale.

Could you have waited to update my Septic Tank until January 2020?

If the Environment Agency found evidence that your septic tank discharging to surface water is causing pollution. You would have needed to replace or upgrade your system earlier than 1 January 2020. You would usually have been given 12 months to comply but this would have been agreed on a case-by-case basis.

What does this mean for new Septic Tank Planning Permission?

All Septic Tanks termed as “new discharges” cannot discharge directly to surface water. Any Septic Tank must meet BN EN12566-1 requirements and discharge to a drainage field/ Septic Soakaway that meets BS 6297:2007.

Should any part of the building your Treatment Plant or Septic Tank serves be within 30 meters of a public sewer, The Environment Agency will not allow you to start a new discharge. You must connect to the main drainage available.

If you are building a development of more than one property, this distance must be multiplied by the number of properties. For example, if there are 3 properties then the distance will be 3 x 30 meters = 90 meters. To find out how far you are from a public sewer visit the OFWAT as a first step or refer to your local water company.

What do the regulations mean if I have an existing Septic Tank?

If your septic tank was installed and discharging on, or after, 1st January 2015 it must comply with the ‘General Binding Rules’. This can be achieved by discharging to a drainage field also known as a Septic Soakaway. This is called a ‘new discharge’ and if your installation was legally compliant no action need be taken. Should you have any concerns please give us a call.

2020 Septic Tank Regulation Guide by Homeseptic

Selling a house with a septic tank, what do I need to do?

Before you sell your property, If your Septic Tank is discharging to surface water, you will need to make changes. This can be either replacing it with a Sewerage Treatment Plant.  Or by diverting the discharge to a Drainage Field or Septic Soakaway.

Should you sell your property –  you must tell the new owner about the sewage treatment system. This must tell the new owner, in writing, that a sewage discharge is in place and include the following.

  • a description of the treatment plant and drainage system.
  • the location of the main parts of the treatment plant, drainage system and discharge point.
  • details of any changes made to the treatment plant and drainage system.
  • Information on how the treatment plant should be maintained, and the maintenance manual if you have one.
  • maintenance records if you have them.

What happens if I don’t meet the new rules?

See the Environment Agency approach to enforcement, sanctions and offenses.

How do I know if my Septic Tank Installation post 1st January 2015 is compliant?

If you do not have a drainage field or Septic Soakaway and your system discharges directly to surface water then it is not compliant. Please get in contact, we may be able to help by diverting it to a new drainage field. You should also report your rouge installers to the Environment Agency immediately.  

Your septic tank or treatment plant must have met the British standards in place at the time it was installed. It meets these standards if the following apply.

If in any doubt get in contact with the company that installed your equipment. They will need to confirm that it complies with the British Standard that was in place at the time the equipment was installed. Should you like a second opinion please give us a call.

Can I still discharge to a watercourse, what does the Environment Agency advise?

Contact the Environment Agency to discuss your options. You can apply for a permit for an existing or new discharge to surface water from a septic tank. A permit is only granted in exceptional circumstances. If you’re planning to use a septic tank conversion unit to upgrade an existing septic tank. You must check it meets the required standard. Evidence may be required to show that the wastewater will treat to the correct standard. In addtion, you will still need to apply for a permit.

What other Regulations and Environment agency advice should I consider?

Is your septic tank big enough?

Your treatment system must be installed properly and have enough capacity. The treatment system must be large enough to handle the maximum amount of sewage it will need to treat. If you install a new small sewage treatment plant you must check with the installer that it meets the sizing requirements in British Water’s Flows and Loads 4 guidance. Of course, if you are using Homeseptic we will do all of this for you. 

Should the amount of sewage the system needs to treat increases you must make sure the treatment system is still big enough. You must also recalculate the maximum daily volume of your discharge and apply for a permit if it is more than 5 cubic meters (5,000 litres) a day. Again Homeseptic can give you help with this.

Your treatment system must be installed in line with the manufacturer’s specifications.

Septic Tank in a tidal area

If you’re in a tidal area, you must make sure the top end of the pipe that releases sewage is below the ‘mean low water spring mark’. This is the average low water mark at the time of spring tides.

Find out the low water mark where you live on the Admiralty tide tables. Contact the Environment Agency if your exact location is not shown.

Do I need to have my Septic Tank serviced and Emptied?

Your treatment system must be regularly emptied and serviced annually. Homeseptic can carry this out and have several maintenance and service packages so you do not need to worry.

You must get the sludge that builds up in your sewage treatment plant removed (de-sludged) before it exceeds the maximum capacity. As a minimum, you should have your treatment system de-sludged once a year or in line with the manufacturer’s instructions.

You must have your treatment system repaired or replaced if it is not in good working order, for example, if it has:
  • leaks
  • cracks in tank walls or pipes
  • blocked pipes
  • signs that the effluent is not draining properly (pools of water around the drainage point)
  • sewage smells
  • a failed motor
  • a failed pump
  • Or a failed electrical supply

If you stop using your treatment system – make sure it’s properly decommissioned. You must remove anything that could cause pollution (for example, remaining sludge) when you stop using a septic tank or sewage treatment plant. This does not apply if you only stop using the equipment temporarily, for example, if your property is empty. You can ask us for advice on how to decommission your septic tank or treatment plant properly.

How To Comply With New Septic Tank Regulations?

If you are unsure whether your septic tank has a new or existing discharge, contact Homeseptic or the Environment Agency who will be able to inform you if your system is compliant. Should it be necessary, following this initial inspection, there are many options available.

In most cases, you will be able to comply with legislation by:

  • Connecting to a mains sewer, if available.
  • Installing a drainage field so that the septic system can discharge to the ground instead.
  • Replacing your septic tank with a small sewage treatment plant.

Homeseptic and General Binding Rules

Homeseptic can help you to be 100% compliant; our team has been legally installing septic tanks with ‘new discharges’ since the General Binding Rules came into place. We appreciate how potentially overwhelming and complicated the new legislation can appear. Our experts are waiting for your call.

Living in the New Forest we love the natural environment and are great advocates of this change. As children, we used to swim in the Avon and other rivers of Hampshire, Dorset and Wiltshire but due to pollution, this is no longer advisable. It will be great to be able to swim sewerage free in our rivers again. 

The Homeseptic team can:

  • Carry out a survey of your sewage treatment system to identify any compliance or safety issues.
  • Offer professional, impartial advice on the best possible measures to help you comply with the General Binding Rules.
  • Provide estimated costs of any action required to help you operate a legal septic tank.

2020 is less than a year away, it is important to prepare for this regulation sooner rather than later. Contact our team today to ensure you remain compliant with the new legislation.

Is there any regulation on how big my tank should be?

Yes, please check out our blog What Septic tank size for my house?

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