If you live in the countryside, chances are you’ll have a septic tank. As long as you’ve ensured it’s regularly emptied and maintained, there really hasn’t been much to owning a septic tank…until now. New rules have now been introduced which may require you to update your tank. The rules have been designed to help reduce pollution from sewage into the nations watercourses. The Environmental Permitting Regulations 2014 actually came into force in January 2015 and created these General Binding Rules or GBR’s as they’re also known. Under the GBR’s, anyone with a septic tank discharging into a watercourse must have it replaced or upgraded by 1 January 2020 or sooner if the property happens to be sold before this date. An upgrade or replacement could also be enforced if the Environmental Agency find it’s causing serious pollution too.
How Can Systems Be Replaced?
Systems can be replaced in the following ways:
Connecting to mains sewers where possible
Installing drainage fields so the tank discharges into the ground
Replacing with a small sewage treatment plant
In special circumstances, a permit can be applied for that allows a septic tank to discharge onto surface water. A permit may also be applied for a septic tank conversion unit however, proof must also be shown that it will treat to the equivalent standards as a sewage treatment plant.
As well as this, it’s also highly recommended that all septic tank systems be checked to ensure they:
Met the relevant standard when installed or have the equivalent CE mark.
Have sufficient capacity for its intended use.
Were installed with the manufacturers specifications in mind.
Are maintained regularly, usually annually.
Are replaced or repaired where possible by a qualified person.
Have a sewage release that’s kept the ‘mean low water spring mark’ if situated in a tidal area.
Additional Rules For Later Septic Tanks
There are a few additional rules in place for septic tanks and systems installed on or after 1 January 2015. These will only apply if there was previously a discharge to surface before 1 January 2015 which you intend to have changed to a discharge to ground water or vice versa. They also apply if there was a discharge to groundwater before 1 January 2015 and you intend on having this changed with the installation of a new drainage pipe which allows for discharge more than 10m away from the existing one. In these instances, the following steps must be followed:
The Environmental Agency will not allow a new discharge from your sewage treatment plant if any part of the building the plant serves is within 30m of a public sewer. This distance can be increased if there are more properties. If there are 3 properties for instance, the distance increases to 90m.
You must apply for a permit if there’s a good reason that you cannot access the sewer, for example you’re within 500m of a designated sensitive area i.e. Special Area Of Conservation etc.
You must apply for planning permission and gain permission from Building Regulations in order to install a new sewage treatment plant.
You must wait for the Environmental Agency to advise on new discharges to ditches or surface water if the flow is sufficient all year round.
If you’d like further help and advice when it comes to new septic tank regulations and what’s required of you, contact us today via [email protected]