1. Navigating Regulations for Septic Tanks and Sewage Systems

Managing a property with a septic tank, sewage treatment plant, or cesspit can pose unique challenges. Various regulations are in place to ensure these systems operate efficiently and have minimal environmental impact. Property owners bear the responsibility of complying with these regulations to prevent legal issues with the Local Authority and the Environment Agency. These authorities have the authority to inspect off-grid sewage systems and take action in case of unresolved problems.

2. Ensuring Compliance with the Law

To simplify the understanding of these regulations, we have extracted essential information from lengthy documents and presented it in a more accessible format. This guide will walk you through the primary regulations relevant to your property, whether you have a septic tank, cesspit, or sewage treatment plant. We can also help you distinguish between these systems.

While these regulations place responsibilities on property owners, our goal is to help you understand how they impact your property. Please be aware that this guide offers a summary of current regulations and does not replace legal advice.

3. Understanding Regulations for Sewage Treatment Plants

Sewage treatment plants must adhere to strict guidelines outlined in EN12566-3 standards. These guidelines include specific requirements for their location and operation. Here’s a breakdown:

  • Location: Sewage treatment plants must be strategically located, ensuring a minimum separation distance of 10 meters from both natural water bodies and adjacent structures.
  • Power Supply: If electricity is needed for the plant’s operation, it should either function without power for up to 6 hours or have a reliable uninterrupted power supply.
  • Effluent Discharge: The treated effluent can be safely discharged into a watercourse, ditch, or a drainage field (commonly known as a soakaway system).

A drainage field, or soakaway system, consists of a network of pipes with perforations or slots designed to provide secondary treatment to wastewater. To ensure its proper functioning, you must:

  • Maintain a minimum separation of 2 meters from neighbouring property boundaries.
  • Situate the drainage field at a distance of at least 15 meters from any existing buildings.
  • Ensure a significant safety precaution by positioning it no closer than 50 meters from a water source, such as a well.
  • Avoid using the designated area for the drainage field for access roads, driveways, or paved surfaces.

These regulations aim to safeguard the environment and public health while ensuring effective sewage treatment. It’s essential to adhere to these guidelines to maintain compliance with the law.

4. Understanding Guidelines for Septic Systems

Septic tanks come with specific guidelines that must be followed for their proper functioning and environmental safety. Here’s a breakdown of these guidelines:

  • Positioning: Septic tanks should be located a minimum of 7 meters away from any part of the building designed for living spaces. Additionally, they should be conveniently situated within 30 meters of a point that allows for easy access when it’s time to empty the tank.
  • Effluent Discharge: Most septic tanks are designed to discharge effluent into one of three primary systems: a local watercourse or ditch, a soakaway system, or a drainage field. However, as per the General Binding Rules for Small Sewage Discharges, septic tanks are now exclusively permitted to discharge into a drainage field. Discharging into watercourses or ditches is no longer allowed due to septic tanks providing limited waste treatment, posing safety concerns if effluent enters water bodies without further treatment, which a drainage field can effectively provide.

For those with non-compliant septic tank systems (discharging into a watercourse), several options are available:

  • Connecting to the mains sewer system.
  • Installing a drainage field (also known as an infiltration system) for ground discharge.
  • Replacing the septic tank with a small sewage treatment plant.

A reasonable timeline, typically 12 months, must be established to undertake the necessary actions.

In the past, legislation required the upgrade or replacement of non-compliant drainage systems by January 1, 2020. However, guidance has been updated to reflect the timeline mentioned above.

When buying or selling a property with a septic tank discharging into a watercourse, it is essential to negotiate and agree upon responsibility for replacing or upgrading the existing treatment system as a condition of the sale.

A drainage field is a network of pipes featuring perforations or slots that deliver secondary wastewater treatment. The drainage field should maintain a minimum distance of at least 10 meters from a watercourse, be situated no less than 15 meters away from any building, ensure a safe separation of at least 50 meters from a water supply source, such as a well, and avoid proximity to access roads, driveways, or paved areas.

These guidelines are in place to safeguard the environment and public health while ensuring efficient and safe sewage treatment. Adhering to these regulations is crucial for legal compliance.

5. Understanding Compliance for Cesspits and Cesspools

Cesspits and cesspools must adhere to specific guidelines for their proper functioning and legal compliance:

Positioning: Cesspits and cesspools should be located a minimum of 7 meters away from areas of the building where people live. They should also be conveniently situated within 30 meters of an access point for when they need to be emptied. These systems do not release waste on their own; they only do so when emptied because they lack outlets.

Capacity Calculation: To determine the necessary capacity for these systems, calculate it based on the number of bedrooms in the property. Add 2 to that number. For example, a 3-bedroom house would require a total capacity of 38,400 litres.

6. Useful Resources

This guide aims to provide comprehensive information on compliance requirements for septic tanks, cesspits, and sewage treatment plants. For specific regional variations, consult the following resources:

Natural Resources Wales (NRW): For Wales, visit https://naturalresources.wales/permits-and-permissions/water-discharges/?lang=en.

Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA): For Scotland, visit https://www.sepa.org.uk/regulations/water/small-scale-sewage-discharges/.

Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA): For Northern Ireland, visit https://www.daera-ni.gov.uk/articles/regulating-water-discharges.

When it comes to resolving drainage challenges and adhering to guidelines, we’re your trusted partner. Our team is always here to provide expert advice and assistance. Call us on 07902 688279, and let’s tackle your drainage needs together.