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Septic tank update - 12 month plan

Napthens - December 12th 2019

New septic tank rules came into force on 1st January 2015. If the septic tank system was installed and in use before 31 December 2014, it is classed as an existing discharge. If it was installed and in use after that date, it is classed as a new discharge.

Septic tanks settle the solids in the sewage and the discharge the liquid septic effluent to ground via a correctly designed and constructed drainage field. They cannot discharge into ditches, streams, canals, rivers, surface water drains or any other type of watercourse. Under the new Environmental Agency General Binding Rules, if you have a septic tank that discharges directly to a surface water you must replace or upgrade your septic tank treatment system to a full sewage treatment plant. The rules have been that this must be done by 1st January 2020. However the rules have recently been changed as of 25th October 2019 to state that you now must have plans in place to carry out this work within a reasonable timescale, typically 12 months.

So if you your septic tank needs upgrading, these are the points you must consider:

  • The septic tank must meet the British Standard in force at the time of installation.
  • The septic tank must be the correct size and installed correctly.
  • You must apply to the EA if a new system discharges more than 2 cubic metres (2000 litres of 13 person) a day into the ground
  • Septic tanks will not normally be allowed more that 15 persons under the EPP2 Regs
  • Septic Tank must be regularly emptied and maintained
  • Settled sludge must be removed before it exceeds the maximum capacity
  • Tanker company must be a registered waste carrier – request the company’s waste carrier certificate

When selling a property, the new owner must be informed in writing that they are responsible for septic tank discharge, this must include:

  • A full description of the septic tank and drainage field
  • The location of the septic tank and drainage field
  • Details of any changes made to the septic tank or drainage field from the original design
  • Details of the maintenance required for the septic tank
  • Records of maintenance that you have had done to the system. You must keep these for 7  years

The parties to the sale should also agree who will be responsible for the replacement or upgrade of the existing system.

You cannot install a new drainage field if any part of the building is within 30 metres of a public sewer. You must connect to the sewer. If it is not possible to connect to nearby sewer, for example because of an obstruction such as a railway line, or the sewer is already at full capacity then you must apply for a permit from the EA.


This means that all properties now being sold have to consider the new regulations and requirements for septic tanks. If the existing septic tank is not compliant then it may have to be replaced/upgraded prior to the property being sold, which is often an unforeseen expense and lengthy time delay. As a vendor you must also have full knowledge of your septic tank system to be able to provide all the required information to any prospective buyer. As an agent, it is prudent to make your client aware of the information requirements when they provide instructions and to also discuss who will be responsible for any upgrade so that the matter can be resolved as quickly as possible.