new septic tank regulations

Are you compliant?

Does your property have a septic tank? Are you buying a property with a septic tank? This guide should tell you all you need to know.

New rules and guidelines came into force in England in June 2015 (there are different rules for septic tanks and treatment plants in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales). The new rules affect the ‘operator’ of a septic tank or sewage treatment plant and depending on the terms of your lease, if applicable, this could be either owner or tenant.

These rules state that you are no longer allowed to discharge from septic tanks directly to a surface water/watercourse under the general binding rules. The Environment Agency have decided that the quality of the waste water is not considered clean enough and will have a detrimental effect on the environment as a whole.

New rules for 2020: If your property’s septic tank discharges to a watercourse, not a soakaway or drainage field, you must replace or upgrade the system by 1st January 2020 – or before that date if you are selling a property.

There are three main ways in which you can comply with the new regulations:

  • Install a drainage field or soakaway system.
    This will take waste water from your septic tank, and disperse it safely into the ground without causing pollution and is potentially the easiest way to get round the legislation but it is only an option if you have access to enough suitable land to provide the soakaway.

  • Connection to a mains sewer connection
    Most people only opt to use a septic tank, or similar because there isn’t a nearby mains sewer to connect to so it’s unlikely this will be a viable option to many, unless you’re Local Water Authority has installed a sewer recently in your area.

  • Change your septic tank for a package sewage treatment plant
    This is probably the most likely outcome for all owners of the soon to be outlawed systems, which discharge to surface water. Sewage treatment plants are a part mechanical system that treats the liquid and breaks down solids to produce a cleaner, more environmentally friendly effluent and is considered pure enough to discharge to a watercourse. Your new system will need to be specified correctly with the right capacity for the levels of usage you have and must meet the BS EN 12566 standard.

Furthermore any new septic tank/sewage treatment unit must have both planning permission and building regulations approval.

If the unit has been installed since 1st January 2015 and you did not get these permissions then you should apply retrospectively for them both.

If your property is within 30 metres of a mains sewer the Environment Agency will require you to connect to the mains instead of installing a sewage treatment unit.

There are a number of further restrictions and exemptions that may apply. For more information on the new regulation please click here.

Rules for Scotland
In Scotland you must register a sewage discharge, both new and existing with Scottish Environment Protection Agency. Proof of registration is required when new properties are being built or existing properties change hands. Click on this link for more information.

Rules for Wales
You must register your septic tank or sewage treatment plant with Natural Resource Wales. 

Click on this link for more information.

Rules for Northern Ireland
Septic Tanks must be registered with your local government regulator, application form for consent to discharge sewage from a single domestic dwelling can be found here.