No time to waste

Fri, Aug 09, 2019

If we say ‘new rules about septic tanks’ we know you’re going to want to switch off and read about something a bit....fresher?!

But stick with us, because if you do have a septic tank on your property, regulations brought in back in 2015 and setting deadlines for change are just a few months away from becoming a required standard.

Septic tanks are usually installed where drainage directly into the mains sewerage system is impractical or unavailable, and are very common in rural areas. They collect household sewage which then settles into solids at the base (to be emptied professionally by a registered waste carrier), and liquid waste at the top, which discharges either into a drainage (sometimes called infiltration) system or some cases, a watercourse.  

By January 1st 2020 if you have a septic tank you’ll need to be compliant with a new set of standards called the General Binding Rules designed to protect the environment from leaking and improperly discharged sewage (and that’s got to be a good thing).

These are most likely to affect owners whose septic tanks discharge into a water course – where this is the case you will almost certainly need to upgrade or replace your system by January 1st 2020 (sooner, if you are selling the property which the tank serves).

However, all septic tank owners should take the opportunity to familiarise themselves with how their own system operates and check if any changes are required.

Different rules apply for properties in England, Scotland and Wales, for systems installed pre- and post-January 2015, and for small sewage treatment plants, septic tanks dispensing into drainage/infiltration systems and those dispensing into watercourses such as streams. For a full explanation of rules and how they affect your property, go to

We also recommend for clear point-by-point detail into compliance.

Improved standards have also been put in place for tanks being newly installed. New tanks and drainage fields (and in some circumstances, those being replaced) require planning permission and building regulations approval. Those already in place are likely (though not certain) to comply if they are CE marked, have a British Standard Certificate of compliance or are on British Water’s list of approved equipment. Tanks installed before 1983 are not subject to British Standards. If any doubt, check with your supplier or on the website link above.

As good practice, ALL septic tank owners should:

  • Ensure their tank has sufficient capacity to serve the property
  • Have the tank regularly emptied by a registered waste carrier, according to installation guidelines and before reaching maximum capacity
  • Repair or replace installations if leaks, cracks or blockages occur
  • Provide full records and details of the system when selling the property it serves
  • Have the tank emptied if the property will be unused over a long term.