Environmental Permitting Regulations 2016—domestic septic tanks and small sewage treatment plants
Environmental Permitting Regulations 2016—domestic septic tanks and small sewage treatment plants

The following Environment guidance note provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Environmental Permitting Regulations 2016—domestic septic tanks and small sewage treatment plants
  • The need for environmental protection
  • Exemption for small domestic sewage discharges
  • When is an environmental permit required?
  • General binding rules
  • Conveyancing issues

The need for environmental protection

Septic tanks and small sewage treatment plants are wastewater systems for domestic sewage that are used when properties are not connected to the mains sewage network.

Homes and businesses must connect to a public sewer if they are located within 30 metres of the mains sewer, or the equivalent distance for a development of more than one property (eg 90 metres from a public sewer is there is a development of three properties).

Domestic sewage includes wastes arising from normal domestic activities wherever carried out, including from:

  1. schools

  2. pubs

  3. restaurants

  4. takeaways

  5. holiday parks

  6. nursing homes

  7. offices

Sewage discharge can cause river pollution, damage habitats and contaminate drinking water supplies. Exposure to sewage can also impact health and lead to nuisance complaints between neighbours.

Unless sewage discharges are exempt, operators of septic tanks and sewage treatment plants must obtain an environmental permit under the Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2016 (EPR 2016), SI 2016/1154.

An operator includes:

  1. the property owner using the system

  2. the property owner sharing the system with other properties—each property owner is an operator, and is jointly responsible for complying with the general binding rules

  3. an entity that has a written agreement with the property owner that says they are responsible for the system’s maintenance, for example a tenancy agreement

From a regulatory control view point