New regulations for septic tanks in England and Wales came into force at the start of 2020 and with more than a million UK properties using an off-mains drainage system, this new legislation will have a big impact.
But what are the consequences of not complying with the new legislation? Here’s what we found out…
What does the new legislation state?
If you have a septic tank that is discharging directly to surface water, such as a river, ditch or stream, then you are failing to comply with the new legislation.
You need to urgently replace or upgrade your sewage treatment system if this is the case. Failure to do so could mean you risk prosecution or a significant fine from the EA.
What are the consequences of not being compliant?
If you fail to comply with the new regulations, you risk facing a significant fine as well as prosecution. As this legislation is new, there are not currently any examples of households or businesses that have been affected, as of yet.
We have, however, found previous examples of cases where watercourses have been polluted by other means and the resulting prosecutions. This includes a Somerset farmer who was recently ordered to pay £3,996 in fines and costs for polluting a stream with contaminated water.
In this case, the pollution was discovered during a routine inspection from the Environment Agency*. They found that a pipe was discharging dirty water from the farm into a nearby stream and that sewage fungus was visible. The cause of the pollution was from a silage clamp that was leaching into the ground.
Another farmer was fined £8,700 in 2019 for repeatedly polluting a Northamptonshire stream**. In this scenario, two lagoons on the farm filled up with farmyard runoff, including raw cattle waste, before spilling over into connected drainage ditches which flowed into the stream.
Fines can be significant for the pollution of watercourses. Back in 2016, a housing developer was fined £100,000 for its involvement in the pollution of a watercourse near Huddersfield***. In this case, polluted water from its construction site drained into a local dyke.
How does the Environment Agency ensure compliance?
The Environment Agency could check to ensure you are compliant with the new legislation at any time. This is normally done via one of the following ways:
- an assessment – a desk based check of whether you’re complying with your permit, for example checking you’re sending in required information
- an inspection – where an officer visits your site
- sampling of your permitted water discharge activity or groundwater activity
When it comes to the inspections, they are usually planned but they can also be unannounced. When visiting your site, they will generally look around and ask questions about your plant and where it discharges. They may also ask to see documents and talk to your staff.
How can we help?
Here at Cotterill Civils, we are one of the UK’s most trusted suppliers of sewage treatment plants, septic tanks, cesspools and pump stations. We can provide you with expert advice on the different sewage treatment options available to you as well as ways in which you can upgrade your system without the need to replace it.
We can also offer a complete package – where we design, supply and install your new sewage treatment system, providing you with peace of mind. We also can provide a service package to help ensure you extend the lifetime of your sewage treatment system.
Give us a call on 0121 351 3230 and we’ll be happy to help!