Is the house you're looking to buy or sell on mains drainage? If not, you need to be aware of the regulations that apply

Is the house you’re looking to buy or sell on mains drainage? If not, you need to be aware of the regulations that apply

Is your house on mains drainage? If not, then it is likely that your property has a cesspit, septic tank, or small wastewater treatment system.

If this is the case, then you need to be aware of the regulations that exist and apply to such systems, by the Environment Agency.

If buying, or selling a property with such a system, you will need to be sure that the system as installed has been sized correctly, and will enable the effluent to be treated satisfactorily and to a sufficient standard to enable the requirements by the Environment Agency to be met.  You should check whether it has been registered or is exempt.

Currently, and pending the outcome of a review for small sewage discharges in England, the Environment Agency will not be pursuing registration where the:

• discharge is to ground and is of 2 cubic metres per day or loess via a septic tank and infiltration system (soakaway) and is outside a Source Protection Zone 1 (SPZ 1)

• discharge is to surface water and is of 5 cubic metres per day or less via a package sewage treatment plant.

• sewage if only domestic

• sewage system is maintained in accordance with the manufacturers instructions and you keep a record of all maintenance. In the case of septic tanks this includes regular emptying and

• discharge does not cause pollution of surface water or groundwater

These are the main requirements that need to be checked, there are however other more detailed requirements, including the proximity of the house to foul sewers, tidal waters, conservation areas.

The requirements for systems discharging within a SPZ 1 require particular attention and should be checked out prior to installing a septic tank discharging to ground.

The requirements in Wales are not subject to review, and the existing registration system will remain in place.

Notwithstanding the requirements of the Environment Agency, you still have the option to register a small domestic sewage discharge due to a house sale.

It is important, whether selling or buying, that you ascertain that the system is adequately sized for the property being considered, as this can cause problems later and lead to additional costs that may not have been budgeted for at that time.

I recently undertook a survey of such a system where the septic tank had been designed and installed to serve the 4 bedroom property on site.  However, it had not been sized to accommodate the additional flow arising from a more recent barn conversion into 2 holiday lets, which was located on the land occupied by the main house.

Needless to say the inadequate size of the septic tank was a matter for much concern and presented a stumbling block in terms of the sale and the regulations that existed at the time.


About thewastewaterman

Chartered civil engineer with 30+ years' experience, specialising in the treatment and management of waste water. Expertise includes rainwater harvesting, water recycling, natural wastewater, reed beds, drainage, stormwater management (SuDS) and sludge/slurry

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  1. […] Septic tanks and private wastewater treatment systems ( […]

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