Septic Tanks Regulations

Septic tank regulations - It's not exactly the title of a thrilling novel! However, if your property has a septic tank that discharges to a watercourse, or you’re buying a property with one, then this is an important blog to read.

What is a septic tank?

A septic tank is an underground tank that collects all domestic wastewater and sewage when the property doesn’t have access to mains drains.

The waste collects and settles inside the tank where an anaerobic process takes place to reduce the solids and bacteria.

The treated liquid is then discharged to a watercourse or a soakaway system.

The remaining solids then need to be removed with the aide of a specialist tanker company.

Septic Tank Regulations

Back in 2015 the ‘General Binding Rules’ were released. The basics of these stated that the separated wastewater in a septic tank could be discharged in one of two ways:

  • To a soakaway system or drainage field
  • To a watercourse such as a river or stream

Changes to the 2015 Rules

Updated regulations now advise you are no longer allowed to discharge from a septic tank into a watercourse, or to any type of soakaway other than a drainage field.

The quality of the treated wastewater is no longer thought to be clean enough to enter our watercourses without causing pollution.

Legislation previously stated that any drainage systems which were deemed non-compliant would need to be upgraded or replaced by 1st January 2020.

However, as that date came and went, the guidance within the legislation also changed. Here is what the guidance for the General Binding Rules now states:

"If your septic tank discharges directly to a watercourse, you need to do one of the following as soon as possible:

  • connect to a mains sewer
  • install a drainage field (also known as an infiltration system) so the septic tank can discharge to ground instead
  • replace your septic tank with a small sewage treatment plant

You must have plans in place to carry out this work within a reasonable timescale, typically 12 months.”

Buying & Selling a Property with a Septic Tank

When buying a property, it is important to know the type of drainage system installed before continuing with any purchase.

The guidance on the General Binding Rules states:

`If you are buying or selling a property with a septic tank that discharges directly to a watercourse, you should agree with the buyer or seller who will be responsible for the replacement or upgrade of the existing treatment system. You should agree this as a condition of sale.'

If you are buying a property with a septic tank, make sure you have the wastewater system assessed by a wastewater professional to ensure you don’t have any unexpected bills!

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