Sewage Treatment Changes 2020-11-17T13:02:44+00:00

New Septic Tank Regulations Under The General Binding Rules

New septic tank rules came into force on 1 January 2015. If your septic tank system was installed and in use before 31 December 2014, it is classed as an “existing discharge”. If it was installed and in use after that date, it is classed as a “new discharge”.

Rules for both existing and new septic tank discharges in England

Septic tanks settle the solids in the sewage and then discharge the liquid septic effluent to ground via a correctly designed and constructed drainage field – NOT to a soakaway pit, soakaway creates or Ezy Drain. These are not allowed for sewage effluent disposal.

They cannot discharge into ditches, streams, canals, rives, surface water drains or any other type of watercourse. Under the new Environment Agency General Binding Rules, if you have a septic tank that discharges directly to a surface water (ditch, stream, river) etc. you must replace or upgrade your septic tank treatment system to a full sewage treatment plant by 1 January 2020, or when you sell your property, if it is before that date.

Once upon a time, you could ‘discharge’ the separated waste water from within the septic tank through one of two ways:

  1. To a drainage field or soakaway system – here, the waste water percolates through holes or slots into the pipework, into the surrounding sub-soils. This provides a form of treatment of the water, and it allows the waste water to disperse safely without causing a pollution.
  2. To a watercourse – the waste water would flow through a sealed pipe straight to a local watercourse such as a stream or a river.

So, what’s changed?

Basically you can no longer do no. 2 above. The reason for this is because the ‘quality’ of the waste water is no longer considered clean enough to flow straight into local watercourses without causing pollution.

This is not an entirely new rule. For some years now, property owners have not been allowed to install a new septic tank which discharges to a watercourse. However, if your property already had a septic tank discharging to a watercourse, unless the EA identified that it was causing a pollution, you were able to carry on.

This all changes in 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 your property.

What are the options?

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

  1. Swap your septic tank for a sewage treatment plant – sewage treatment plants produce a cleaner form of water, and it’s considered clean enough to discharge straight to a watercourse. The sewage treatment plant must have full BS EN 12566-3 Certification.
  2. Install a drainage field or soakaway system – this will take the waste water from your septic tank and disperse it safely into the ground without causing pollution. The drainage field must be designed and constructed to the current British Standard BS6297 2007. A drainage field, also known as an infiltration system, is a series of rigid pipes with holes or slots, placed in trenches, over drainage stone and arranged in a closed loop design so that the effluent can trickle through the ground for further treatment by soil bacteria.

You cannot use a soakaway (designed for draining rainwater), well or borehole for discharging effluent to ground. If your system includes a soakaway, you must either change it to a drainage field or apply for a permit from the Environment Agency, so that they can assess the risk to groundwater at your site and the risk to groundwater in general.

Please click the ink below to see the Environment Agency General Binding Rules


Please contact us if you need advice about the 2020 changes.

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