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Understanding the Rules Surrounding Septic Tanks in England

If you live in or are moving to a rural area, then there’s every possibility that your home isn’t connected to a mains sewerage line, in which case it may have or require a septic tank. A septic tank sits underground and allows wastewater to be treated through biological decomposition, separating what is known as the sludge and the scum from the water before it is then drained.


Assuming that you upkeep sufficient septic tank maintenance, they are a hygienic alternative to mains sewers if a connection to these is not possible. However, in England, there are certain rules that must be followed pertaining their use. Read on below as we discuss the general regulations below.


new septic tank

Existing vs New Septic Tanks

The rules regarding septic tank ownership and usage are dependent on whether you have what is known as an existing discharge or a new discharge.

An existing discharge refers to a septic tank that was installed before 2015 and has not changed significantly, moved or increased the amount of discharge per day (by up to 2,000 litres if released into the ground and up to 5,000 litres if released into surface water).


A new discharge refers to any septic tank that was installed from 2015 onwards, including those planning to be installed at present, or those that were installed before 2015 but have changed in type, moved more than 10 metres or have increased discharge by the aforementioned quantities since 2015.


What it Means to Have a New Discharge

If you do have a new discharge, then it must be connected to a mains sewer if the Environmental Agency deems it ‘reasonable’ to do so. However, in some cases they will deem this ‘unreasonable’, in which case your septic tank will continue to discharge into the environment as long as it meets the general binding rules.

This is usually dependent on:

● How close your property is to a public foul sewer

● The cost of connecting to a public foul sewer vs the cost of installing a septic tank

● Whether anything in the landscape would stop you from connecting to the public sewer

● Whether your septic tank treatment would have any environmental benefits (e.g. it reuses treated effluent)


Following the General Binding Rules

There are a number of general binding rules that must be followed, of which these include to get your treatment system emptied regularly (rule 12).

Your septic tank collects sludge as the wastewater is treated, which gradually builds up over time. This must be removed before it exceeds the maximum capacity your tank can hold. As a minimum, septic tank emptying should occur at least once a year or as per the manufacturer’s guidelines for your specific tank.

You must call in a professional company to empty your tank and dispose of your waste sludge for you, and they must be a certified waste carrier - just like us here at R & A Cleansing.

Specialising in liquid waste disposal, we are pleased to offer fast, reliable and cost-effective services to customers across West Cornwall and Devon. If you’re based in this area and need someone to empty your septic tank, then get in touch with us today.

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