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Septic tank owners beware

From 1st January 2020, septic tank owners were required to replace or upgrade their wastewater system.

Regulations contained in the General Binding Rules (introduced in The Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) (Amendment) (England) 2014) took effect at the start of the year, meaning septic tanks can no longer drain into a local ditch, river or stream. The rules were introduced as water dispersed by septic tanks is no longer deemed clean enough to flow into a stream or river without causing pollution.

If you are a property owner with a septic tank that discharges wastewater directly into a stream or river, rather than a soakaway or drainage field, you were required by law to replace or upgrade the system by 1st January 2020.

To comply with the new regulations, you should have made one of the following changes to your system:

  1. Swap your existing tank for a sewage treatment plant. Modern domestic sewage treatment plants produce water that is considered clean enough to be discharged into a stream or river; or
  2. Install a drainage field or soakaway system. Both allow the wastewater from your septic tank to be dispersed safely into the ground without causing pollution

In order to comply with the General Binding Rules you should also:

  • Regularly empty your septic tank and/or small sewage treatment plants to ensure you are not causing pollution
  • Repair any faults or problems with your septic tank immediately
  • Remember septic tank systems are limited to discharging a maximum of 2,000 litres of sewage per day into the surrounding soil, or 5,000 litres of treated sewage per day into flowing water: any more requires a permit

If you are buying or selling a property with a septic tank and require expert advice, please call our team on 0113 264 4414 or email

Olivia Emmett

Written by

Olivia Emmett

Solicitor Apprentice

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