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Septic Tank Regulations

If you own a property with a septic tank or other self contained waste water system, or are looking to buy one, it is important that you stay up to date with the latest regulations regarding your system.

In 2015, regulations came out stating that you could no longer discharge to a watercourse from a septic tank, as the quality of the effluent (What is emitted from the outlet of the tank) is no longer considered to be of a safe enough quality (A decision made by the Environment Agency and NRW). Now, the only legal way to discharge from a septic tank is to a drainage field, which is a system by which the polluted effluent is further biologically filtered by anaerobic bacteria that proliferate on stone under a network of slotted pipes buried under the ground.

The legislation released in 2015 stated that non-compliant systems would need to be updated or replaced by the 1st of January 2020. The guidance changed as this date passed, with the rules becoming somewhat more lenient, now stating:

“If your septic tank discharges directly to a watercourse, you need to do one of the following as soon as possible:

  • Connect to a mains sewer
  • Install a drainage field(Also known as an infiltration system) so the septic tank can discharge to ground instead.
  • Replace your septic tank with a small sewage treatment plant.

You must have plans in place to carry out this work within a reasonable timescale, typically 12 months.”

There are some significant repercussions for those who do not adhere to this legislation going forward, including the potential of being fined a significant amount of money – there are multiple cases of property holders being fined thousands of pounds for pollution of rivers. With this in mind it would be prudent to consider your current drainage system, ensure it is compliant with regulations, and if it is not, to update or replace it.

These regulations are of particular importance if you are looking to buy or sell a home. If you are buying a property, you should be careful to find out what the drainage system on the site is, its condition, and whether it is compliant with current regulations. Keeping this in mind, it is now actually a legal requirement that a property that had a previously non compliant system gets it updated prior to sale. If you are looking to sell your home, it is important to bear this in mind, as it will be a significant extra cost you will have to deal with before you can exchange.

Regardless of the situation, a comprehensive drainage survey should be a standard part of the procedure of buying a rural home these days – a lot of trouble and unfortunate surprises could be prevented by a little bit of investigation before you buy your property. Should you need a survey of the drainage on a home you are looking to buy, or are in need of advice regarding drainage systems on a property for the purposes of buying or selling, we are able to help. Call us on 01834 844804 or email us at today for a quote.

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