The legislation in relation to Septic Tanks has changed over the past few years, with new legalisation having come into play on 1st January 2015.

Under the new Environmental Agency General Binding Rules, if you have a septic tank that discharges directly to a surface watercourse you must replace or upgrade your septic tank treatment system to a full sewage treatment plant (STP).

When the Regulations were introduced, they initially stated such that replacement or upgrade works must have been completed by 1st January 2020. However, the rules subsequently changed to state that property owners must have plans in place to carry out this work within a ‘reasonable timescale’, typically 12 months.

If you own property that does not connect into the mains drainage network, it is crucial that you’re in the know about the changing septic tank regulations. Fines of up to £100,000 could be issued by the Environment Agency for properties that fail to meet new regulations.

There are a number of factors to consider in relation to the replacement of old septic tank systems under the new regulations. These include:

  • Compliance with the British Standard in force at the time of installation
  • The correct size of sewage treatment plant for the property
  • Installation of a new STP by a suitably qualified professional in line with manufacturer’s recommendations
  • A suitable location for the STP, with consideration to ground conditions.
  • Ensuring compliance with Building Regulations (a Building Notice application will be required).
  • Provision of an electrical supply to the new STP, with electrical certification.
  • A suitable outfall from the STP, to a drainage field or a watercourse – but investigations are required and all must meet Environment Agency Standards.

The rules regarding septic tanks apply to all properties that have existing septic tanks, and also come into play when a property is being sold. The seller must provide a detailed written description of the septic tank and drainage field, its location, and any changes made from the original design.  Details of the maintenance required for the septic tank, along with records of maintenance covering up to a 7 year period, must also be provided.

Where an old, non-compliant system is in place, the parties to the sale will also need to agree who will be responsible for the replacement or upgrade of the existing system.

Contact Lea Hough for Advice

Should you have a rural estate or property portfolio that has a number of septic tanks, our surveyors can help – we can inspect, advise upon suitability, specify the correct type of new system, select suitable installation contractors, oversee the installation work, deal with the Building Notice / Building Regulations compliance, etc. Please get in touch for advice.

If property owners don’t replace non-compliant systems, then they could risk receiving fines and bad publicity. It will also inevitably lead to problems and delays when they wish to sell the property.

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