Environmental Permitting Regulations

Environment Agency

Impact of Environmental Permitting Regulations on management of small sewage treatment plants and septic tanks

What are the Environmental Permitting Regulations? (England only)

  • Introduced in 2007 to consolidate water and waste management control by the EA so a single regime is in place
    • Updates/revisions in 2010, 2014, 2016, 2018 and 2019
  • 2 Appendices to these Regulations are relevant to NADC members – in that the requirements of the regulations changed on 1 Jan, 2020
    • Sch 21 deals with discharges to surface waters
    • Sch 22 deals with discharges to groundwaters
  • The EA have set out a timetable for the control of discharges to surface and groundwater from small sewage treatment plants and septic tanks

What do the Regulations set out to do?

  • Give a framework of registration and controls for such discharges that places responsibilities on the operators of small sewage treatment plants or septic tanks
    • The focus is on discharges from small units where there is no active management of the wastewater activity – i.e. the operator simply allows it to cause local pollution

Previously most small (typically domestic) discharges were not subject to any control unless identified as causing pollution or nuisance – the Regulations now require the following:

Summary of binding rules – different for discharges to surface water or groundwater

Surface Water

  • Septic tanks must not discharge direct to surface water
  • Therefore, a discharge must use a small treatment plant (meeting BS EN 12566)
  • This plant must be maintained and operated (with records kept) in accordance with manufacturer’s instructions
    • This will include sludge removal, E&M maintenance and visual inspection of discharge to check for (adverse) impact
  • Less than 5m3per day
  • For new installations – will need Building Control approval

Ground Water

  • Applies to Septic tanks and small sewage treatment plants
  • Use a drainage field that complies with BS 6297:2007
  • Do not discharge to a well or borehole
  • Not in a groundwater protection zone (check with EA)
  • Less than 2m3 per day
  • For new installations – will need Building Control approval

Consequences/enforcement action

  • Failure to follow the binding rules increases risk of enforcement action by EA
  • Likely require upgrade of existing system – e.g. remove septic tank and replace with sewage treatment plant/connect to public sewer
  • Would have to be declared on sale of property
  • General requirement to tell potential buyers of property of sewage disposal arrangements and show records of compliance with “binding rules” – e.g. tanker receipts, routine maintenance carried out
  • Loss of sale!

Opportunities for NADC members

  • Septic tank/treatment plant operations and maintenance
    • provide service (sludge removal, inspection and report on condition) – compliance with binding rules
    • and repair of drainage fields, tanks, chambers etc.
    • advice on operations and alternatives if problems identified (e.g. connect to public sewer)
  • Build/install compliant systems
  • Inspect and report for potential buyers – check infrastructure, report on records and compliance with “binding rules”.

Who can help?

The Environment Agency:Email: enquiries@environment-agency.gov.uk

Telephone: 03708 506 506 (8am to 6pm, Mon to Fri)

Online: www.gov.uk/small-sewage-rules

Incident hotline: 0800 80 70 60 (24 hours, 7 days a week)

Supporting info from EA at: https://consult.defra.gov.uk/water/reform-regulatory-system-small-sewage-discharges/results/your-sewage-your-environment-leaflet-july-2015.pdf

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