Septic tanks were the most common solution for treatment of waste water and sewage where no mains drainage was not available. They are a cost effective but poor performing solution which ultimately cause pollution to the watercourses. According to Flushed Away, a report published by WWF-UK, the world’s leading independent conservation organisation, 80% rivers in England and Wales are not ecologically safe. And of this, 55% of the rivers are polluted by waste water. Owing to the growing concern of pollution of watercourses, the UK Government introduced the New Septic Tank Regulations on January 1, 2015. The rules have essentially been designed to reduce the level of pollution from sewage in the watercourses. The ultimate goal of the government is to end the practice of septic tanks discharging directly into a watercourse.

The Environment Agency (EA) and Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) introduced new regulation changes in January 2015 stating:

“You must use a small sewage treatment plant to treat the sewage if you’re discharging to a surface water such as a river or stream.  A small sewage treatment plant (also known as a package treatment plant) uses mechanical parts to treat the liquid so it’s clean enough to go into a river or stream. Discharges from septic tanks directly to a surface water are not allowed under the general binding rules. If you have a septic tank that discharges directly to a surface water you will need to replace or upgrade your treatment system by 1 January 2020, or when you sell your property if before this date.”

The new septic tank regulations under the General Binding Rules are applicable to England, and Wales. As per the new regulations, septic tanks cannot discharge into any watercourse such as ditches, streams, canals, rivers or surface water drains. So, if a property, such as a home, hotel, commercial building has a septic tank system that currently discharges directly into a watercourse, it has to be replaced or upgraded with a full sewage treatment plant before January 1, 2020. However, if the property is being sold or if the Environment Agency finds out that it is causing pollution, action will have to be taken much earlier.

But before you replace or upgrade your existing septic tank system, it is important to fully understand the regulations and take action accordingly.

If a property has a septic tank that currently discharges into a water course, one of the following steps must be taken:

 The tank must be connected to a mains sewer where available

 A drainage field must be installed so that the septic tank can discharge into the ground

 The tank should be replaced with a small sewage treatment plant

 Get a permit to allow discharge to a watercourse

 Get a permit to use a septic tank conversion unit to upgrade an existing tank. But evidence must be provided that it will treat to the same standard as a full sewage treatment plant.

The onus of compliance to the new rules lies with the operator of the septic tank. The operator could be the owner, tenant, leaseholder or the user of the property/land where the septic tank is located.

All the treatment systems must be checked for the following:

 If your system met the relevant British Standard which was in force at the time of installation. The standards applicable for the new systems are – BS EN 12566 for small sewage treatment plants and BS 6297:2007 for drainage fields. This rule does not apply to tanks installed prior to 1983.

 If it has a CE mark or certificate of compliance with a British Standard or it’s on the British Water’s list of approved equipment.

 If it has sufficient capacity to meet the discharge requirements of the property

 If it is installed in accordance with specifications of the manufacturer

 If it is maintained as per the guidelines of the manufacturer

 It should be repaired or replaced if it is not in proper working condition. For example: if it has leaks, cracks in tank walls or pipes, blocked pipes, signs that the effluent isn’t draining properly, sewage smells, a failed motor, a failed pump or a failed electrical supply

 If the discharge to the sewer is below the ‘mean low water spring mark’ for a property in a tidal area

With under a year and a half to go there should be more public awareness of the changes in regulation giving sufficient time to the operator to have a solution in place prior to the deadline.  If you have a septic tank in your property, it’s about time you start thinking about replacing or upgrading it.


Harlequin MFGs Sewage Treatment Solutions

If you need to upgrade or replace your sewage treatment plant, we offer two type of Sewage Treatment Plants.

HydroClear Range:

– Slim Profile
– Easy Installation
– Pollutant Removal Level 96.6%
– Inhabitants Served 1-50

View our Harlequin HydroClear range here.

CAP6 Sewage Treatment Plant:

– Compact System
– Simple Installation
– Pollutant Removal Level 96.2%
– Easy Maintenance
– Inhabitants Served 1-6

View our Harlequin CAP6 here.

To find out more about our products, contact our team on 028 9261 1077 or send an email to

Sources of Information


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