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General Binding Rules were introduced in January 2015 for private sewerage systems in England to reduce pollution and ensure that all systems are properly maintained.

All homes and businesses that have a sewage treatment plant or septic tank, must comply with these rules.

For all that are not connected to mains sewerage systems, all waste water will drain to one of the following systems:

Cesspits I Cesspools

These are a holding tank for untreated sewage. Unlike septic tanks there is very little treatment taking place and they do not drain to a soakaway. They must be emptied when full and must not be allowed to overflow or leak. Cesspits and cesspools are not covered by the general binding rules.

Septic Tanks

These tanks are situated underground and allow the solids to sink to the bottom forming sludge. The liquid component then flows through the dividing wall and into a drainage field where soil bacteria treat it as it soaks into the ground. A percolation test is required prior to installation to ensure the porosity of the soil is adequate to serve as a drain field.

Small Sewage Treatment Plants

These are a small sewage treatment plant (can also be referred to as a package treatment plant) They are a part-mechanical system that treats the waste water by aerating the bacteria so it becomes clean enough to go into a drainage field, river or stream directly.

How to comply:

• Your system must be installed correctly and large enough for the business/home.

• Ensure your system meets the relevant British Standard. Any systems installed before 1983, must also be checked that they have been properly maintained.

• The Environmental Agency should be consulted before installing a new system to see if you require a permit, along with your local planning authority to ensure the proposed system meets planning requirements.

• Permits are required if your system is within 50 metres of a Site of Special Scientific Interest or other designated areas, including Ancient Woodland, Special Areas of Conservation, Special Protection Areas or Ramsar sites.

• If you discharge into a Groundwater Source Protection Zone 1, or if the discharge is within 50 metres of a private water supply source special rules will apply.

• No more than 2,000 litres of treated sewerage must be discharged per day into the ground, or more than 5,000 litres per day to flowing water.

• Ensure your system is emptied regularly by a registered waste carrier.

• Always inform the buyer about the sewage system in place if you sell your property.

Changes from January 2020

If you have an existing septic tank that currently discharges directly to a watercourse or stream, this will need to be upgraded as it no longer meets the requirements set out. To upgrade you must either install a drainage field or replace your septic tanks with a treatment plant.

Rules for Wales

Natural Resources Wales require private sewage systems to be legally registered with them. For most small-scale private sewage systems this is a free and one-off registration.


• If you discharge more than 2,000 litres per day to the ground or 5,000 litres per day to water. An individual house produces on average 150 litres of waste per person per day, so its very unlikely that it would need a permit

• If your septic tank discharges to a well, watercourse, borehole or soakaway designed for rainwater

• You are within 50 metres of any designated landscape or 30 metres of a public sewer.

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