Law Requirements

In January 2015, new rules were introduced that simplify the way septic tanks and small sewage treatment plants are regulated in England, protecting the environment and improving water quality.  If you have a septic tank or small sewage treatment plant, by law you must comply with the ‘general binding rules’ by ensuring your system is maintained properly and does not cause pollution. Extra protection is in place in areas designated as environmentally sensitive, where people may need to apply for a permit.

It’s easy to comply with the general binding rules. Here are the main things you need to do:

  • Have your system emptied by a registered waste carrier regularly (at least once a year unless the manufacturer says otherwise) to ensure it doesn’t cause pollution
  • Maintain your system regularly, getting any faults or problems fixed immediately
  • You are limited to discharging a maximum of 2,000 litres of treated sewage per day into the ground or 5,000 litres of treated sewage per day to flowing water. If you discharge more you will need a permit. Calculate how much your system is discharging at
  • Speak to the Environment Agency before installing a new system as you may need a permit. Speak to your local council to check your system will meet planning requirements and building regulations. Only install equipment that meets British Standard BS EN 12566
  • If you sell your property, inform the buyer in writing that it has a septic tank or small sewage treatment plant

Go to for more information, if you are unable to follow the rules, are worried your system may be causing pollution or want to check if your system needs a permit.

Environment Agency will usually firstly try to provide advice and guidance to help resolve the issue. If this is not successful further enforcement action may be taken.