Is your Septic Tank 2020 Ready?
2020 Deadline for Septic Tank Upgrades
If you have a property with a septic tank, there are some upcoming changes to the law that may affect you – and time is running out for you to comply with them!
In January 2015 the Environment Agency General Binding Rules came into force, meaning that all sewage discharges must comply, including both existing and new systems. If you system was installed and discharging before 31 December 2014 you have an ‘existing discharge’. If your system was installed and discharging on or after 1 January 2015 you have a ‘new discharge’.
It is your responsibility, as the owner of the septic tank or sewage treatment system, to ensure you comply with these rules.
If you currently have a septic tank then this must not discharge into any watercourse or ditch. You must use a septic tank or small sewage treatment plant to treat the sewage and then discharge the effluent (treated liquid) to ground via a drainage field. If you current septic system does currently discharge surface water, you will need to replace or upgrade it by 1 January 2020 or when you sell your property (if before this date).
If your septic tank is currently discharging directly into a surface water, doing nothing means you will find yourself in breach of the regulations from 2020. To stay on the right side of your legal requirement, you could choose any of the following alternatives (which may or may not be available to you):
- Connect your existing septic tank to a mains sewer
- Install a drainage field and divert your existing septic tank to discharge to ground
- Replace your septic tank with a small sewage treatment plant
In each case, there are issues to consider and certain conditions to satisfy.
Option 1 – Connection to a mains sewer
Most people only opt to use a septic tank or similar because there isn’t a nearby mains sewer to connect to so it’s unlikely this will be a viable option to many. If you’re not familiar with the full history of the property, this could be an area to examine. Your local water company will be able to confirm whether or not connection to a mains sewer is a workable solution for you. For new developments, you may be compelled to use public sewers, if they’re close enough.
Option 2 – Install a drainage field
This is potentially the easiest way to get around the legislation, it’s an option if you have access to enough suitable land to provide the soakaway. You must also use a system that meets the BS 6297:2007 standard.
Option 3 – Replace your septic tank with a treatment system
This is probably the most likely outcome for all owners of the soon-to-be-outlawed systems, which discharge to a surface water. Your new system will need to be specified correctly with the right capacity for the levels of usage you have and must meet the BS EN 12566 standard. Once installed, the new treatment system must be regularly emptied and maintained.
Your treatment system must be installed correctly and have enough capacity
Your treatment system must be large enough to handle the maximum amount of sewage it will need to treat. For new installations of both septic tanks and sewage treatment systems, you must check with the installer that it meets the sizing requirements in British Water’s Flows and Loads 4.
If the amount of sewage the system needs to treat increases (for example, because you’ve extended your property or connected another property) you must ensure the treatment system is still big enough. You must also recalculate the maximum daily volume of your discharge and apply for a permit if it is more than 2 cubic metres (2,000 litres) a day (for systems discharging to ground) and 5 cubic metres (5,000 litres) a day (for systems discharging to surface water).
Your treatment system must be installed in line with the manufacturer’s specification in the manual that came with the equipment. Using an accredited installer will give peace of mind that this has been done correctly, and will help to avoid problems in the future.
Have your treatment system regularly emptied and maintained
You must have your septic tank or sewage treatment system emptied (de-sludged) before it exceeds the maximum capacity. As a minimum, we recommend de-sludging annually or in line with the manufacturer’s instructions.
You must ensure that you use a registered waste carrier to dispose of the sludge. A registered waste carrier will provide a copy of the Waste Transfer Note to certify it has been disposed of correctly.
You must also keep your system properly maintained, and repair or replace it if it isn’t in good working order. The best method of addressing issues is to get your system serviced annually by a qualified engineer. They will be able to check for any leaks, cracks, blockages, drainage problems, smells or failed parts.
If you sell your property
If you sell your property, you must tell the new owner in writing that a small sewage discharge is in place. When you tell the new owner about the septic tank/treatment system, include the following:
• a description of the treatment system and drainage system
• the location of the main parts of the treatment system, drainage system and discharge point
• details of any changes made to the treatment system and drainage system
• details of how the treatment system and drainage system should be maintained, and the maintenance manual if you have one
• maintenance records if you have them
If you have any questions, get in touch with our team. We can provide advice and assistance – contact us on 01642 724000 or email firstname.lastname@example.org