Onsite wastewater regulations in the U.K.
Summary of off-grid sewage treatment system regulations in the U.K. This article describes the three off-grid sewage handling & treatment options in the U.K., the requirement for an EN 12566 Certificate for larger treatment systems, the EN 12566 wastewater treatment system categories or types, limitations on or prohibitions on the use of cesspools, and regulations addressing the disposal of septage in the U.K. as well.
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Septic System & Off-Grid Onsite Septic System & Wastewater Treatment Regulations in the U.K.
Three Off-Grid Sewage System Options in the UK
Maureen Webb www.wte-ltd.co.uk
In the UK there are three options for off-mains sewage systems:
- Septic Tank connected to an onsite soakaway bed or similar effluent disposal field
- Sewage Treatment Plant
- Cesspool (only in England and Wales as they are banned in Scotland)
1. Septic Tank Requirements for Off-Grid Wastewater Treatment in the UK
These are anerobic [anaerobic] settlement tanks that settle out the solids, forming a sludge layer at the bottom of the tank and a floating crust on the top of the effluent. The liquid waste between these two layers is discharged to a soakaway drainfield, subject to Environment Agency or SEPA (in Scotland) permission. The majority of sites in the UK fail the mandatory
soakaway tests, making septic tank installations impossible in many areas.
2. UK Sewage Treatment Plant Requirements
These are aerobic tanks which treat the sewage effluent to a much higher standard of quality than a septic tank. The final effluent is allowed to be discharged directly to a watercourse or ditch, or to a soakaway drainfield, subject to Environment Agency or SEPA (in Scotland) permission.
3. Cesspools for Wastewater Collection in the UK
In the UK, cesspools are sealed underground holding tanks which offer no actual treatment of the sewage and have no effluent outlet.
Cesspools need to be emptied by tanker on a regular basis.
Cesspools are banned in Scotland as they are not sustainable and very expensive to operate.
Terminology note: Cesspool vs. holding tanks
In the U.S. a cesspool is an underground holding system that receives raw sewage and permits effluent to discharge into surrounding soils. Cesspools do not treat effluent because of their depth in the ground (lacking exposure of effluent to sufficient aerobic bacteria) and because of the limited volume of soil available to perform any treatment. See CESSPOOLS for details about these systems.
In the U.S. an "underground holding tank" is a water-tight sewage receiving tank that has no outlet whatsoever. Sewage holding tanks are generally not permitted by sanitary codes in the U.S. but local authorities may make exceptions such as for temporary use during construction or as "grandfathered" for certain facilities located adjacent to rivers, streams, or other bodies of water.
UK Septic System Rules and Regulations - EN 12566 Certification
All septic tanks and sewage treatment plants up to 50 persons must be registered and permitted in the UK. The Environment Agency operates the registration scheme and issues their Permits and Exemptions. In order to qualify for this acceptance, the systems must have an EN 12566 Certificate under the EPP2 (Environmental Permitting Programme Phase 2) regulations.
The EN 12566 certificate ensures that the tank has been structurally tested for strength and water-tightness and, in the case of sewage treatment plants, performance tested for water quality for 38 weeks at an independent EN Test Centre.
Cesspools must have been structurally tested for strength and be water-tight. They must also have a high level alarm.
From July 1st 2013, all tanks will need to be CE marked in addition to the above under the Construction Products Directive. In order to have the CE mark, the tanks must have an EN 12566 Certificate.
There are various EN 12566 categories as follows
[Click image to see an enlarged version]
Building Regulations - relevant to sewage treatment plants and Septic Tanks in the U.K.
The Building Regulations 2000 - Drainage and Waste Disposal 2002 edition Part H-H2 Package Sewage treatment Works
The main provisions of the UK Sewage Treatment Plant Regulations
- The Sewage Treatment Plant must be sited more than 7m from habitable property
- The soakaway must be a minimum of 10 metres from a watercourse, 15 metres from a building, 2 metres from a boundary and 50 metres from a borehole or spring.
- The soakaway must be designed to BS6297: 2007 and all percolation test results must be submitted.
- The discharge point shall be more than 10m from habitable property
- If the discharge is to a soak away a sampling chamber must be provided before the soak away.
- Soakaway drains must be constructed in the aerobic soil layer, i.e. within 700mm. of ground level
Regulation of the Emptying Septic Tanks and Sewage Plants in the U.K.
Septic Tanks and Sewage Treatment Plants can ONLY be emptied by licenced waste disposal companies, NOT by the local farmer with his slurry tanker.
It is highly illegal for anyone, other than a licensed waste disposal contractor to empty and dispose of all effluent from septic tanks and sewage plants. The effluent must be taken to fully recognised and licensed sewerage treatment works. The regulated water companies operate these works. It cannot be spread onto farmland.
Maureen Webb is a technical designer at WTE, Ltd., WTE designs, manufactures, supplies, installs and maintains all makes of sewage treatment plant including non-electric onsite wastewater treatment systems, septic tanks, cesspits, septic tank conversion units and pumping stations for both domestic and commercial applications, worldwide. Prices start from£1520 + VAT for full sewage treatment systems. We also are specialists in water filtration. For more details about WTE see the Company's website
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Septic System Codes, Design Regulations, Authorities
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Technical Reviewers & References
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Click to Show or Hide Citations & References
- New York State Department of Health, "Appendix 75-A Wastewater Treatment Standards - Individual Household Systems", [PDF] New York State Department of Health, 3 February 2010, retrieved 3/1/2010, original source: https://www.health.ny.gov/regulations/nycrr/title_10/part_75/appendix_75-a.htm
-  Maureen Webb, WTE Ltd., www.wte-ltd.co.uk Tel. 01757 288022 Quoting from the company's website:
WTE designs, manufactures, supplies, installs and maintains all makes of sewage treatment plant including NON-ELECTRIC systems, septic tanks, cesspits, septic tank conversion units and pumping stations for both domestic and commercial applications, worldwide. Prices start from £1520 + VAT for full sewage treatment systems. We also are specialists in water filtration.
We are experts in sewage, supplying and installing sustainable sewage treatment solutions to prevent septic tank pollution of our environment and groundwaters.
We are also the sole importers of the VORTEX™ wastewater systems that are very cost effective septic tank replacements and cheaper to install and run than septic tanks.
- Drinking Water Contamination and Pollution How to Detect, Test, Correct, and Prevent Well Water Contamination - US EPA - Groundwater
- Onsite Wastewater Disposal, R. J. Perkins;
Quoting from Amazon: This practical book, co-published with the National Environmental Health Association,
describes the step-by-step procedures needed to avoid common pitfalls in septic system technology.
Valuable in matching the septic system to the site-specific conditions, this useful book will help you install a reliable system in
both suitable and difficult environments. Septic tank installers, planners, state and local regulators, civil and sanitary engineers,
consulting engineers, architects, homeowners, academics, and land developers will find this publication valuable.
- Onsite Wastewater Treatment Systems, Bennette D. Burks, Mary Margaret Minnis, Hogarth House 1994 - one of the best septic system books around, suffering a bit from small fonts and a weak index. (DF volunteers to serve as indexer if Burks/Minnis re-publish this very useful volume.)
While it contains some material more technical than needed by homeowners, Burks/Minnis book on onsite wastewater treatment systems a very useful reference
for both property owners and septic system designers. We refer to it often.
While Minnis says the best place to buy this book is at Amazon (our link at left), you can also see this book at Minnis' website at http://web page .pace.edu/MMinnisbook
- Septic Tank/Soil-Absorption Systems: How to Operate & Maintain [ copy on file as /septic/Septic_Operation_USDA.pdf ] - , Equipment Tips, U.S. Department of Agriculture, 8271 1302, 7100 Engineering, 2300 Recreation, September 1982, web search 08/28/2010, original source: http://www.fs.fed.us/t-d/pubs/pdfimage/82711302.pdf
- Soil Percolation Tests soil perc testing guide and instructions
- Percolation Testing Manual, CNMI Division of Environmental Quality, PO Box 501304, Saipan, MP 96950
- Planting Over Septic System Component", Daniel Friedman (author/editor, InspectAPedia.com), The Innovator, Winter/Spring 2008, BCOSSA, British Columbia OnSite Sewage Association, 201-3542 Blansard St., Victoria BC V8X 1W3 Canada
- Save the Septic System - Do Not Flush These Items Down the Toilet, Daniel Friedman, InspectAPedia.com - PDF document, printable
- SEPTIC STANDARDS
- SEPTIC MAGAZINES
- Septic System Owner's Manual, Lloyd Kahn, Blair Allen, Julie Jones, Shelter Publications, 2000 $14.95 U.S. - easy to understand, well illustrated, one of the best practical references around on septic design basics including some advanced systems; a little short on safety and maintenance. Both new and used (low priced copies are available, and we think the authors are working on an updated edition--DF.
Quoting from one of several Amazon reviews: The basics of septic systems, from underground systems and failures to what the owner can do to promote and maintain a healthy system, is revealed in an excellent guide essential for any who reside on a septic system. Rural residents receive a primer on not only the basics; but how to conduct period inspections and what to do when things go wrong. History also figures into the fine coverage.
- Test Pit Preparation for Onsite Sewage Evaluations, State of Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, Portland OR, 800 452-4011. PDF document. We recommend this excellent document that offers detail about soil perc tests, deep hole tests, safety, and septic design. Readers should also see Soil Percolation Tests and for testing an existing septic system, also see Dye Tests
- Grass is Always Greener Over the Septic Tank, Bombeck, Erma: $ 5.99; FAWCETT; MM;
This septic system classic whose title helps avoid intimidating readers new to septic systems, is available new or used at very low prices.
It's more entertainment than a serious "how to" book on septic systems design, maintenance, or repair. Not recommended -- DF.
- US EPA Onsite Wastewater Treatment Systems Manual Top Reference: US EPA's Design Manual for Onsite Wastewater Treatment and Disposal, 1980, available from the US EPA, the US GPO Superintendent of Documents (Pueblo CO), and from the National Small Flows Clearinghouse. Original source http://www.epa.gov/ORD/NRMRL/Pubs/625R00008/625R00008.htm
- Water Wells and Septic Systems Handbook, R. Dodge Woodson. This book is in the upper price range, but is worth the cost for serious septic installers and designers.
Quoting Amazon: Each year, thousands upon thousands of Americans install water wells and septic systems on their properties. But with a maze of codes governing their use along with a host of design requirements that ensure their functionality where can someone turn for comprehensive, one-stop guidance? Enter the Water Wells and Septic Systems Handbook from McGraw-Hill.
Written in language any property owner can understand yet detailed enough for professionals and technical students this easy-to-use volume delivers the latest techniques and code requirements for designing, building, rehabilitating, and maintaining private water wells and septic systems. Bolstered by a wealth of informative charts, tables, and illustrations, this book delivers:
* Current construction, maintenance, and repair methods
* New International Private Sewage Disposal Code
* Up-to-date standards from the American Water Works Association
- Wells and Septic Systems, Alth, Max and Charlet, Rev. by S. Blackwell Duncan, $ 18.95; Tab Books 1992. We have found this text very useful for conventional well and septic systems design and maintenance --DF.
Quoting an Amazon description:Here's all the information you need to build a well or septic system yourself - and save a lot of time, money, and frustration. S. Blackwell Duncan has thoroughly revised and updated this second edition of Wells and Septic Systems to conform to current codes and requirements. He also has expanded this national bestseller to include new material on well and septic installation, water storage and distribution, water treatment, ecological considerations, and septic systems for problem building sites.
- The NSFC Products List has an excellent list of design manuals/modules available from their website or by telephone 800-624-8301
Books & Articles on Building & Environmental Inspection, Testing, Diagnosis, & Repair
- Advanced Onsite Wastewater Systems Technologies, Anish R. Jantrania, Mark A. Gross. Anish Jantrania, Ph.D., P.E., M.B.A., is a Consulting Engineer, in Mechanicsville VA, 804-550-0389
(2006), Advanced Onsite Wastewater Systems Technologies.
Outstanding technical reference especially on alternative septic system design alternatives. Written for designers and engineers, this book is not at all easy going
for homeowners but is a text we recommend for professionals--DF.
- Builder's Guide to Wells and Septic Systems, Woodson, R. Dodge: $ 24.95; MCGRAW HILL B; TP;
Quoting from Amazon's description: For the homebuilder, one mistake in estimating or installing wells and septic systems can cost thousands of dollars. This comprehensive guide filled with case studies can prevent that. Master plumber R. Dodge Woodson packs this reader-friendly guide with guidance and information, including details on new techniques and materials that can economize and expedite jobs and advice on how to avoid mistakes in both estimating and construction. Chapters cover virtually every aspect of wells and septic systems, including on-site evaluations; site limitations; bidding; soil studies, septic designs, and code-related issues; drilled and dug wells, gravel and pipe, chamber-type, and gravity septic systems; pump stations; common problems with well installation; and remedies for poor septic situations. Woodson also discusses ways to increase profits by avoiding cost overruns.
- Country Plumbing: Living with a Septic System, Hartigan, Gerry: $ 9.95; ALAN C HOOD & TP;
Quoting an Amazon reviewer's comment, with which we agree--DF:This book is informative as far as it goes and might be most useful for someone with an older system. But it was written in the early 1980s. A lot has changed since then. In particular, the book doesn't cover any of the newer systems that are used more and more nowadays in some parts of the country -- sand mounds, aeration systems, lagoons, etc.
Design Manuals for Septic Systems
US EPA Onsite Wastewater Treatment Systems Manual [online copy, free] Top Reference: US EPA's Design Manual for Onsite Wastewater Treatment and Disposal, 1980, available from the US EPA, the US GPO Superintendent of Documents (Pueblo CO), and from the National Small Flows Clearinghouse. Original source http://www.epa.gov/ORD/NRMRL/Pubs/625R00008/625R00008.htm Onsite wastewater treatment and disposal systems,
Richard J Otis, published by the US EPA. Although it's more than 20 years old, this book remains a useful reference for septic system designers.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Water Program Operations; Office of Research and Development, Municipal Environmental Research Laboratory; (1980)
- Eco John® Innovative Toilet Solutions, Global Inventive Industries, Fountain Valley CA, PDF, product brochure
- "International Private Sewage Disposal Code," 1995, BOCA-708-799-2300, ICBO-310-699-0541, SBCCI 205-591-1853, available from those code associations.
- "Manual of Policy, Procedures, and Guidelines for Onsite Sewage Systems," Ontario Reg. 374/81, Part VII of the Environmental
Protection Act (Canada), ISBN 0-7743-7303-2, Ministry of the Environment,135 St. Clair Ave. West, Toronto Ontario M4V 1P5 Canada $24. CDN.
- Manual of Septic Tank Practice, US Public Health Service's 1959.
Onsite Wastewater Disposal Books