In 2015 new General Binding Rules came into force to regulate discharges from small septic tanks in England. If your 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’.

Those rules are to be tightened with effect from the 1st January 2020 so that a septic tanks that discharges directly into surface water will no longer be allowed. Under the new Environment Agency Septic Tank General Binding Rules, if you have a specific septic tank that discharges into surface water (such as a: river, stream, ditch, etc.) you are required to upgrade or replace your septic tank treatment system to a full sewage treatment plant by 2020, or when you sell the property, if it’s prior to this date.

Essentially these rules will cover all systems that treat waste water and sewage, unless the systems are connected to the mains. The rules are designed to reduce the level of pollution from sewage into the nation’s watercourses, and if that is the case, these systems need to be upgraded prior to the 1st January 2020. Where a septic tank discharges directly into surface water, the Operator must take action to replace / upgrade it by the 1st January 2020. The Owner/Operator is defined as a person who owns the land / has control over the operation of the sewage treatment plant.

Works to upgrade or replace a septic tank might include:

• Connection to a mains sewer, where available;
• Installation of a drainage field or infiltration to the septic tank, so that it can discharge to ground instead;
• Replacing the septic tank with a small sewage treatment plant

Where a property with such a septic tank is to be sold, before 1st January 2020, the question for the responsibility of the necessary works should be addressed by the parties in the contract of sale. The Environment Agency advises that where a property is a sold, the seller must tell the new owner or the person responsible for the sewage treatment plant in writing that a sewage discharge is in place and must include a description of the treatment plant and drainage system.

For any further information or questions, please contact the Madeleys Team on 01952 727007 /