Septic Tanks Rule Change for 2020

Septic tank regulations. It’s not an opening phrase that would make many people read on, but if your property has a septic tank – or if you are buying a property with a septic tank, you might need to.

All of Monxton appears to be in the red zone, so any this will affect any septic tank owners in the village.

Given what goes into a septic tank, it’s understandable why the Environment Agency is keen to make sure that it stays in the tank, instead of floating down the local stream. So, there are a lot of rules and regulations surrounding septic tanks – from where you can put them, to where the water that leaves the tank can go. Some are best practice guidelines, but others are legislation, and you could find yourself in the equivalent of the contents of your septic tank if you ignore them.

The latest regulations came out in 2015, and are called ‘General binding rules: small sewage discharge to a surface water’. It doesn’t exactly trip off the tongue, but its a very important document for many property owners.

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?

You are no longer allowed to discharge from a septic tank to a watercourse, or to any other type of soakaway system other than a drainage field. The reason for this is because the ‘quality’ of the waste water is no longer considered clean enough to flow straight into local watercourses or soakaway systems without causing pollution.

Now, this isn’t 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
  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.

It’s not all doom and gloom, there’s still plenty of time to make the switch. And let’s face it, no one wants to think about the inhabitants of the local streams or rivers hanging out in the dirty water from septic tanks, so it’s a positive change for the environment.

In order to help simplify things, read this Quick Guide to Septic Tank, Sewage Treatment Plant and Cesspit Regulations which you can download now here.

https://www.gov.uk/permits-you-need-for-septic-tanks/general-binding-rules

 

 

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