New Septic Tank Law 2020 – England

If you own or live in a property that’s not on mains sewage it’s important to be aware of new septic tank legislation. The Environment Agency, in a bid to tackle water pollution problems, has created a set of new General Binding Rules, which mean from 1 January 2020 you may need to replace or upgrade your system.

What Are These New Rules?

The General Binding Rules for small sewage discharges (SSDs) have been put in place to protect England’s surface water resources (e.g. rivers, streams etc.) from pollution caused by septic tanks and other small-scale sewage treatment plants.  

Under the new regulations, you can no longer discharge low quality effluent from septic tanks directly into ditches, streams or other watercourses. Instead, you have the option of replacing your system or upgrading it to incorporate a drainage field. Adding a drainage field means that effluent can seep into the ground instead to permit further waste digestion by bacteria.

What Are My Options?

If your current system discharges directly into a water course, causing surface water pollution, then you have three options –

  1. Connect to a mains sewer – if one is close enough,
  2. Install a drainage field – this is only viable if you have enough suitable land,
  3. Replace your septic tank with a more efficient, modern sewage treatment plant

As most properties affected by the new regulations are likely to be old, the most common option adopted is to replace the tank. Modern sewage treatment systems produce a much higher-quality effluent. They work by encouraging the more effective formation of bacteria populations, to break down and digest raw sewage. The result is cleaner, odourless water that can then be safely released into groundwater.

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