On 1 January 2015 the Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2014 came into force and created the General binding rules (GBR) for septic tanks or small sewage treatment plants for domestic use.
Prior to these regulations users could discharge the waste water from within the septic tank in two ways:
- To a drainage or soakaway system
- To a watercourse e.g. a river or stream
However, it is no longer possible for users to discharge to a watercourse, this is because the Environment Agency have held that the quality of such waste water is no longer clean enough to flow straight into watercourses without causing pollution.
By the 1 January 2020 septic tanks that discharge to watercourses must be replaced or updated. If you are selling your property they must be updated before this date. In this case responsibility for the replacement or upgrade of the existing treatment system should be addressed between the buyer and seller as a condition of sale.
Systems can be replaced by:
- Connecting to a mains sewer (where available)
- Installing an infiltration system so the septic tank discharges into the ground
- A small sewage treatment plan
In exceptional circumstances, a permit can be applied for to allow discharge to surface water. However, there must be evidence provided that it will treat to the equivalent standard as a sewage treatment plant. This can be discussed directly with the Environment Agency.
Operators of septic tanks and small sewage treatment plants are responsible with complying with the rules. Operators can include:
- The Owner of the land/property
- The User
- The Tenant/leaseholder if there is a prior written agreement concerning required maintenance for septic tanks
General binding rules (GBR) also contains provisions relating to:
- Standard, quality and regulatory approval for systems
- Strict rules on the capacity of any sewerage system
- General maintenance and emptying
- Information required by purchasers of land containing a sewerage system.
There are also additional rules for new treatment systems installed and in use on or after 1 January 2015, if you:
- started a new discharge from a small sewage treatment plant on or after 1 January 2015
- had a discharge to ground before 1 January 2015 which you now want to change to discharge to a surface water (or vice versa)
- had a discharge to a surface water before 1 January 2015 and you want to install a new drainage pipe which discharges more than 10 metres away from the existing one or which goes to a different surface water
These rules include:
- Checking if there's a public sewer nearby
- Obtaining planning permission and having buildings regulations approval
- Checking if the discharge point is in or near a designated sensitive area e.g. special protection areas, protected shellfish water and areas of conservation
- Ensuring the surface water has flow
Failure to comply with General binding rules (GBR) by the deadline of 1 January 2020 can result in sanctions by the Environment Agency.
To find out more or discuss your individual requirements in further detail, our dedicated Property Team are on hand to help and are able to assist you with the issues raised above to ensure that you are compliant with the requirements of General binding rules (GBR) by the deadline. Whether this be regarding a property you are buying, selling, letting or if you have concerns about compliance in your current property.
For further information on sewage systems and compliance with regulations please refer to our previous article 'The hidden gems of rural and not so rural drainage'
Contact us today on 01603 693500 or email us using the 'Make an enquiry' form. Appointments available at our Norwich, North Walsham, and Sheringham offices.
*This article is provided for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or other professional advice.