curlewhouse

Septic tanks and the 2020 law.

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It is highly unlikely to affect any recent builds of course, but legislation  preventing the direct discharge into watercourses even by existing ones comes in during 2020 and Parish councils and the like have recently been sent letters advising about it.  Now I know that in rural Northumberland there are literally hundreds of old cess/septic tanks which flow into streams and running ditches, and it's presumably the same elsewhere.   It is going to raise some difficult issues - I know for example of properties where it will be physically impossible to achieve the alternative infiltration system  within the property boundary, and so package treatment plants may be needed -  but I also know of people in houses who genuinely could not afford one! Who knows what happens then?   In my own case, we were lucky enough to be able to extend our foul pipe down to join the main sewer. Properties further uphill from us have to have their own system.

 

It is another matter entirely of course if it will/can be policed given staffing levels of the environment Agency, so barring an (unlikely) pollution incident giving them away, I suspect many properties will carry on regardless. 

 

https://www.struttandparker.com/knowledge-and-research/are-you-compliant-with-the-2020-septic-tank-regulations  

  

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I suspect grant funding would become available if secondary treatment plants / complete new systems were required (in much the same way as grants are available to upgrade private water supplies)

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21 minutes ago, curlewhouse said:

[...]

I suspect many properties will carry on regardless. 

[...]

 

It does here. And probably always will. If its soft, smelly and you're up wind of it, West Lancs doesn't care.

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It will be interesting how this is policed. Will all owners of such systems be advised they have a year to upgrade? Or will it only be enforced if a polution incident is reported and investigated?

 

My immediate neighbour immediately upstream of me has such a tank and it can smell i bit at times so I won't be sorry to see him forced to upgrade.  Like us he has little option to discharge anywhere else so a treatment plant discharging to the burn is what he needs.

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What if you've just got a huge, allegedly bottomless pit in the garden and you've only got a rough idea where it is?

 

:ph34r:

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This has been in the pipeline for around quite a few years, since the EA here (and presumably SEPA in Scotland) put forward plans to comply with an EU-driven plan to firstly have all septic tanks registered and then to try to enforce the use of treatment plants. 

 

They have dodged doing both for years, probably because they were "too difficult".  When I was dealing with the EA here is was very clear that they weren't really interested in trying to find all the septic tanks that existed and getting them registered, but they were keen on trying to get the use of treatment plants made compulsory.  I sensed that there was a certain amount of frustration that Part H still allowed septic tanks to be fitted to new builds.

 

 

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3 minutes ago, Onoff said:

What if you've just got a huge, allegedly bottomless pit in the garden and you've only got a rough idea where it is?

 

:ph34r:

 

Wander round in the undergrowth until you fall in in order to locate it. Falling in should also validate whether it's a bottomless pit too ;)

 

It'll probably be about as effective as enforcing other recent laws such as mandating that all dogs must be microchipped. 

 

 

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Cess pit != Septic tank.

 

A cess pit is a closed tank. As it's closed it needs frequent emptying = expensive.

 

A septic tank is a multi chamber system which separates the solids, which need to be removed periodically, but much less frequently than a cess pit. The liquid should be further treated; the best system is a good leach field. You only need one of the proprietary systems if there isn't enough room for a leach field.

 

I doubt that there will be any policing, but it will become a problem when you try to sell a house with an improperly configured system.

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27 minutes ago, billt said:

I doubt that there will be any policing, but it will become a problem when you try to sell a house with an improperly configured system.

 

That's handy, hoping to die here.

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1 hour ago, billt said:

A septic tank is a multi chamber system which separates the solids, which need to be removed periodically, but much less frequently than a cess pit. The liquid should be further treated; the best system is a good leach field. You only need one of the proprietary systems if there isn't enough room for a leach field.

 

The reason for introducing EN 12566-3 was driven by the fact that leach fields often fail to provide adequate aerobic tertiary treatment after ten to fifteen years, due to biofilm clogging of the land drains which disables the aerobic treatment mechanism that soil bacteria provide.   Dig around any old leach field and the chances are you'll find that the soil surround the land drains is black and anaerobic, so the effluent that is running off will have a high BOD.

 

There's a lot of background to this, most of it stemming from EU work (and EC work before that) on identifying and rectifying ground water quality concerns, in particular the contamination of ground water by effluent with a high nitrate content (primarily from agriculture) and that with a high BOD (from industrial processes, agriculture and domestic sources.  They didn't start seriously looking at domestic discharges and their impact on water quality until around 30 years ago, and this has led to a drive to reduce pollution originating from domestic effluent disposal, both locally to the property and on the standards that apply to the discharges by water companies/utilities.   EN 12566-3 2005 is a consequence of the water quality directive, and was devised as a solution to the inadequacies of traditional effluent disposal systems dealing with waste from less than 50 people.

 

If leach fields worked as a long term treatment solution there would have been no need to introduce legislation requiring treatment plants, but it's been known for many years that they just don't continue to work for more than a decade or so.  As an example, in the late 1980's we replaced an old brick built septic tank at my late Mother's farm with a new tank (the old brick one was in the yard and partially collapsed).  The new tank was located the other side of the drive, in a field that had pretty good drainage, and we just laid traditional land drains across the field.  This tank has only had very light use, as my Mother lived on her own at the farm from then until she died this year, yet when it was surveyed recently we found that the land drains were all anaerobic.  There's no indication on the surface, but when a couple of trial holes were dug it was obvious that biofilms had built up around them that had created an anaerobic zone for a foot or so around every drain.  The suspicion is that these land drains effectively failed around 20 years ago, and that the tank had been discharging effluent with a high BOD to the ground water for all that time.

 

The problem is that no one can see failed land drains.  The effluent still drains away, the septic tank still seems to work OK, so it's an "out of sight, out of mind" problem.  The only way to find out if there is a problem is to check at the ends of the land drains to see if the BOD is still OK and that the soil surrounding the drain is still healthy and full of aerobic bacteria, and very few people aver do this - the things only usually get checked when something stops working.

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