Septic Tank Regulations: 2020 Legislation - What Does It All Mean?

If you’ve got a septic tank then you’ll no doubt be aware of all the rules and regulations that come along with them. Ultimately, the Environment Agency is keen to make sure that whatever flows into these tanks stays in them – ensuring against any risk of unwanted discharge downstream.

Septic tanks are installed to collect wastewater at a property that isn't connected to the main sewer network. It is made up of two chambers and installed underground where it treats the water that is stored. 

The wastewater enters the first chamber where it begins to separate - with the solids settling at the bottom and forming a compact base layer. Oils and greases will remain on top of the wastewater. The middle cleaner wastewater then moves into the second chamber where there is also an outlet for discharge from the tank. The effluent is then discharged from the tank.

Until now, there have been two ways that separated waste water from within the septic can be discharged:

  1. To a drainage field – where infiltration will be used. The effluent will percolate through the soil and is broken down by natural bacteria
  2. To a watercourse – the waste water would flow through a sealed pipe straight into a local watercourse such as stream or river.

The new legislation coming into play in 2020 will no longer allow septic tank discharge to a watercourse.

This regulation isn't completely new, for some years now, property owners have not been allowed to install new septic tanks and discharge into a watercourse. However, if you already had a one installed, you were OK to continue to do so (unless the Environmental Agency identified that it was causing pollution). This legislation will mean that these older tanks must be either updated or removed

I have an old Septic Tank, what are my options?

There are two things that you can do in order to ensure that you comply with the new regulations.

  1. Swap your septic tank and install a sewage treatment plant – the sewage treatment plant will produce water which is clean enough to discharge straight into the watercourse.
  2. Install a drainage field – this will disperse your septic tank water safely into the ground through infiltration.

For more information about Septic Tanks and installation in your area please do get in touch.