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Buying a house with a septic tank

The Drainage Field replacement scam: Do you need to upgrade your old Soakaway?

A guide to help avoid one of the common survey scams. To arrange a home buyers survey for your new property please call us on 0800 3101092 or via our contact form.

If you have do not have a British Standard Drainage Field do you automatically have to upgrade to one?

A scam that we repeatedly encounter is firms telling customers that because they do not have a Drainage Field constructed to BS 6297: 2007 that they must upgrade. We have even seen some firms try to use this to sell a tank upgrade quoting it is required as a drainage field is not feasible in the space available, without even undertaking a Percolation Test! If the discharge from your tank was installed before 2007 then this is not the case. Please see the guidance from the EA below. EA guidance is as follows:

  1. If a discharge is existing (i.e. discharging before 2015), then it could be that the infiltration system was installed before 1983 – i.e. before British Standards for drainage fields and therefore the infiltration system only has to meet whatever the best practices were at the time. An operator would not need to apply for a permit, so long as the discharge met the other rules for existing discharges for example not causing pollution, ensuring the treatment facility is maintained and working correctly, etc.
  1. Some discharges may be existing i.e. before 2015 but after 1983 when British Standards were introduced. In this situation, the infiltration system would have to meet whichever British Standards were in force at the time and this would be for the operator to establish and ensure they comply with the General Binding Rules.

(Source Environment Agency 10/07/2020). So for example, if you have a Septic Tank and a Soakaway that is working that was installed before 1983 it is highly likely that an upgrade or in fact any work at all is required. Some of these companies are even offering “Free” compliance surveys. As one of my favourite economists says “It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own self-interest”. If you are selling your house and your buyers have had one of these “Free” surveys please get in touch. If you would like a second opinion or a proper survey by honest people please get in touch.


What happens when my old-style soakaway fails?

If your old soakaway fails and stops working then it is likely that you will need to replace it. Soakaways, as with any form of discharge to the ground, have a finite life span. Even when operating one with a Sewage Treatment Plant there is still an element of suspended solids discharged. Over time the solids build up and reduce the area’s ability to percolate the discharge away. The culmination of this is a complete failure.

If you need to replace your old-style Soakaway then the only allowable form of discharge to the ground under the General Binding Rules is a Drainage Field. I would recommend reading the following article to get a firm understanding of what a Drainage Field is and how its area is calculated. Drainage Field, size calculation and design . To be clear you cannot, without an Environment Agency permit, B6.5, replace a soakaway with a soakaway.

The main issue is that a Drainage Field generally requires a much larger area to discharge in than an old-style Soakaway. A 4-bedroom house with an average percolation test result of 40Vp would require 60m2 of trench area. Which using a maximum trench width of 0.9m and the required spacing between trench runs would need a spare space of around 72m2. Combined with Building Regs requiring the field to be 15m from any habitable part of a property makes it very difficult for the majority of people to actually fit in their garden. If you are lucky enough to have sufficent space please get in contact and we can offer you a quote to carry out the installation: Septic Soakaway Installation.

If you do not have enough space for a Drainage Field then you will need to apply for a permit for an alternative method of discharge. In these circumstances, we advise using infiltration tunnels. Please see the following article: A Guide to Infiltration Tunnels. The main permit issue is that the purpose of a Drainage Field is to offer an element of tertiary treatment to a Septic Tank system. This is because the discharge from a Septic Tank is little changed from the direct discharge made from the property. It has undergone very limited treatment. A Soakaway offers little in the way of treatment, normally due to its depth. If you need to apply for a permit, then in these circumstances it is recommended to replace your Septic Tank with a Sewage Treatment Plant. This means from an Environmental perspective you are proposing a significant environmental improvement. 

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.

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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.

The Drainage Field Upgrade Scam, Does a Soakaway need to be upgraded or replaced?
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The Drainage Field Upgrade Scam, Does a Soakaway need to be upgraded or replaced?
The article looks at if you are currently discharging to ground via an old-style soakaway whether you need to automatically upgrade this to comply with the General Binding Rules.
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