New Septic Tank Legislation - EPP2 - Exemption - Permit

As of January 2015, new regulations apply to all sewage installations in England, but NOT in Wales or Scotland. This is in the form of a reform of the regulatory system to control small sewage discharges from septic tanks and small sewage treatment plants in England and comprises of General binding rules for small sewage discharges (SSDs) with effect from January 2015. Under these rules, it may be no longer mandatory for you to register for a Discharge Exemption, though we still recommend that you do, as rules may change in the future - with tighter legislation.

As part of these new Binding Rules regulations and under the EPP2 Legislation, you don't need to register providing your:

  • discharge is to ground and is of 2 cubic metres per day or less via a septic tank and leachfield infiltration system (soakaway) and is outside a groundwater source protection zone 1. This is approximately equivalent to 9 people occupying a single property
  • discharge is to surface water (ditch, stream, river) and is of 5 cubic metres per day or less via a package sewage treatment plant. This is approximately equivalent to 31 people occupying a single property
  • sewage is only domestic (for the definition of domestic see the registration of small sewage discharges in England document in the downloads box)
  • sewage system is maintained in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions (if not, British Water codes of practice and technical guides) and you keep a record of all maintenance. In the case of septic tanks this includes regular emptying
  • discharge does not cause pollution of surface water or groundwater.
  • discharge does not go to a pond or lake

The above are the GENERAL points, but please click on General Binding Rules for Small Sewage Discharges for the full list of rules.

Check if you're in a groundwater source protection zone 1:

And check if you are within 50 metres of a private water supply that is used to supply drinking water or used for food production. This could be your own private supply or you may have to ask your neighbours if they have one.

If you are planning a new discharge to ground or surface water, you may need a permit if it will be in or near to a designated habitat or wildlife site. If you are unsure, telephone the E.A. customer service on 03708 506 506

*Calls to 03 numbers cost no more than a national rate call to an 01 or 02 number and must count towards any inclusive minutes in the same way as 01 and 02 calls. These rules apply to calls from any type of line including mobile, BT, other fixed line or payphone.

You must apply for a permit if you can't meet these conditions whilst the consultation is underway:.

You still have the option to register a small domestic sewerage discharge due to a house sale:

The existing registration system remains in place for Wales:

News: The UK Environment Agency are reviewing and revising the conditions of existing permits for discharge of septic tanks to watercourses. Taken from their December 2014 correspondence "As a result of the pollution problems we need these properties which discharge from a septic tank to watercourses to upgrade their sewage treatment"
In the past, if you had an old existing Consent to Discharge, it was automatically transferred to a valid Permit , but this is no longer the case. Be warned.

You can still register your septic tank if you want to and our advice is to register NOW whilst the E.A. allows free registration.

The EPP2 Explained

At some point in the future, ALL discharges from septic tanks and sewage treatment plants will have to beAll existing sewage plants and septic tanks will need registration under th registered with the Environment Agency under the EPP2.  This applies to both new and existing systems, no matter how old they are.

Until recently, Everyone who had a sewage treatment plant or septic tank that discharged to either ground or a watercourse, needed to have a Consent to Discharge from the Environment Agency.

These rules changed on the 6th April 2010. The Consent to Discharge has been replaced by a Permit to Discharge under the Environmental Permitting Programme Second Phase (or EPP2).

However, as all sewage treatment plants now for sale must have been tested and hold the EN 12566-3 2005 Certificate, an Exemption scheme has also been introduced, as these plants should not pose a pollution problem if properly used and maintained. You can now register for an Exemption from a Permit to Discharge for:

  • Sewage Treatment Plants discharging up to 5m3 per day or less into surface water (27 population equivalent)
  • Septic Tanks / Sewage Treatment Plants discharging up to 2m3 per day or less into groundwater (11 population equivalent)

for approved sewage treatment plants, free of charge.

WTE Ltd. has produced this guide to provide homeowners, builders and architects with an explanation of how the new system works and how to comply with it.

What is the EPP2?

The EPP2 is part of a continuing Government programme designed to improve the regulations and administrative costs concerning environmental protection and health issues.

The EPP2 forms part of the Environmental Permitting Regulations (EPR), a joint initiative between the Environment Agency, the Department for Energy and Climate Change, DEFRA and the Welsh Assembly.

Will the EPP2 affect me?

Any septic tank or sewage treatment plant installation is affected by the EPP2.  You need a Discharge Permit but you may qualify to register for an exemption if your installation meets certain criteria. See Discharge Permit and Exemption Criteria and Application Form downloads. This criteria includes such things as the amount of discharge, the make of septic tank or treatment plant (only EN 12566-3 2005 Certified plants accepted), plant location, intended discharge point, installation and maintenance contract. See the list of certified sewage treatment plants

All installed products must be tested and approved to specific quality and performance standards.

In order to reduce administration costs, you must now apply for an exemption in the first instance using a form that you can fill in online

Does EPP2 apply to all of the UK?

No. At the moment it only applies to England and Wales, though it is expected to apply to Scotland and Northern Ireland in the near future.

What plant is affected by the EPP2?

The EPP2 applies to all sewage treatment plants and septic tanks.

The EPP2 also applies if you are replacing your septic tank or sewage plant. Exemption or a Permit must be obtained before discharge commences.

What if my system is bigger than this?

If you are discharging more than the amounts allowed for the Exemption, then you will need to apply for a Discharge Permit. See Discharge Permit and Exemption Criteria link above.

Is it expensive to register?

The exemption registration is free, provided that the plant or tank is only discharging small amounts (see Discharge Permit and Exemption Criteria link above) and on the approved EN 12566-3 tested list. If it is not, then you may have to apply for a Permit, which is not free and can cost up to £850.

My septic tank is existing - Does it apply to me?

That depends on whether you have an existing Consent to Discharge or not. If you have, then you do not need to register under the EPP2. If you do not have an existing Consent to Discharge, then you have to apply for a EPP2 exemption or permit.

My new tank has not been installed yet. What should I do?

You should make sure that your system is the correct size and approved by the Environment Agency. Please see our list of approved all-in-one plants or contact WTE Ltd. for verification

Will EPP2 tell me what specific product to install?

No, but you can see the list of package sewage treatment plants that are approved on this website.

Why are some products not on the approved EPP2 list ?

Only septic tanks and package treatment plants which have been tested for 38 weeks at an EN Test Centre are approved. This test looks at performance, what level of maintenance is required, power consumption, structural integrity, water tightness and other factors.  (Septic tank conversion units are not affected.)

This test results then gives the purchaser the facts about the plant and prevents manufacturers making false, undocumented claims about their plants.

The package systems that are approved for use under EPP2 (for an exemption from a permit to discharge) must have all undergone the EN-12566 testing procedure (for either Part 1 or Part 3).

Do all approved products achieve the same performance results?

No  All tanks and plants achieve differing levels of treatment and performance under differing conditions.  Also, some manufacturers ask for reduced loading for the test and the plants are only tested for 4 persons, not the 6 persons as is sold in the UK - beware.

How do I check that a product is approved for use?

The Environment Agency and British Water, have published a list containing most of the certified systems available in the UK. Please see above.

HOWEVER, the list does not show any details of the test results which differ vastly from one plant to another. The actual EN Test Certificate is not much better as it only gives a percentage reduction in the influent pollutants, NOT the actual test results in mg/litre, which is what you have to achieve. For this reason, INSIST ON A COPY OF THE TEST REPORT which gives the results in mg/litre for every test.

What should I look for in the test certificate?

Don't bother looking at the Test Certificate - ASK FOR THE TEST REPORT.  The Certificate does not tell you how many times the plant FAILED the UK Standard that you have to meet, but the Test Report shows the results of every weekly test over the 38 weeks in mg/litre.

There is no pass or fail level for the EN-12566 and not all plants which have the EN are on the approved list. Please see what is wrong with the EN 12566-3 test procedure as we believe it to be a badly designed, misleading test that needs to be re-drafted. 

As an example, the BIOROCK achieved 99.3% reduction in suspended solids on the Test Certificate, but this does not tell you if it will achieve the mg/litre of suspended solids that is stated on your permit. When you look at the Test Report, you can see exactly how many mg/litre of suspended solids it produced for every test (it passed the UK Standard on every test).  As a rule, do not accept plants that achieve less than 95% suspended solids reduction, as they have most likely failed the UK Standards on several test occasions.

Can I install any products that are on the list?

No. EPP2 includes both Part 1 (septic tanks) and Part 3 (underground package sewage treatment plants) of the EN-12566 Standard. In many situations a Septic Tank may not be acceptable.

You must make sure that the standard of treatment required by the Environment Agency, stated in mg/litre, is met by the plant performance results, which is another reason why you must demand the test REPORT, NOT the Certificate which will not tell you this vital information!

You must also ensure that the sewage treatment plant or septic tank is the correct size using the British Water 'Flows and Loads 3' data. Please contact us for sizing.

If my plant is EPP2 approved, do I still require planning permission?

Yes. Before installing a new sewage treatment system, you must contact the local authority to establish whether the location and installation needs additional planning or building controls.

You will also need Planning Permission if you are replacing an existing system.

How do I find out what my ground conditions are like?

Firstly, you must not be in a Groundwater Source Protection Zone. You cannot pollute groundwater as it is abstracted for tap water. A trial site assessment hole and percolation tests must be done before a soakaway or drainage field is designed and installed. Septic tanks can only be discharged to drainfields and if the percolation tests fail or are poor, then a septic tank may not be an option for you.

What other rules must I follow?

You must adhere to the legislation in Section H2 of the Building Regulations, regarding siting, depths, distances, etc. and the BS 6297 2007 drainage design standards.

If you are in an Inner Groundwater Source Protection Zone, then you will not be allowed a soakaway at all, so a septic tank is also not an option. Please ask us to check.

If you are within 30 metres of a mains sewer then you will have to prove that your system is a more sustainable option.

The Department of Trade and Rural Affairs (DETR) stated in DETR 03/99 circular the following:

"Planning Requirement in respect of the Use of Non-Mains Sewerage incorporating Septic Tanks in New Development

If, by taking into account the cost and/or practicability, it can be shown to the satisfaction of the local planning authority that connection to a public sewer is not possible, a package sewage treatment plant incorporating a combination of treatment processes should be considered. The plant should offer full treatment (including secondary and if necessary tertiary treatment) with the final effluent discharge from it meeting the standard and conditions set by the Environment Agency where applicable."

The circular also states that only where it can be proved that a sewage treatment plant is not possible should septic tanks be considered.

What happens if I don't comply?

If you install a sewage system that is not approved, without an exemption or permit, you are breaking the Law and risk:

  • Environmental Pollution
  • Building Regulation violations
  • Planning permission violations
  • Heavy fines and litigation

Can anyone install the unit?

It is not mandatory for a professional installer to install the plant, but EPP2 stipulates that industry best practice needs to be adhered to. EPP2 also states that manufacturers installation instructions must be followed and that specialist installation engineers should be employed.

No sewage treatment plant will work unless the installation is absolutely correct. We have seen some appalling installations which, in some cases, have had to be re-done at great expense. In some cases it is not possible to re-install the plant and a new one has to be purchased.

All manufacturers warranties are voided unless the plant is installed correctly.

WTE Ltd. has a network of Accredited Installers throughout the UK.

What about maintenance?

All sewage system must be operated and maintained in accordance with the manufacturers maintenance manual.

EPP2 also recommends regular desludging / emptying according to the manufacturers guidelines by licensed companies demonstrating competency and a duty of care with regard to final disposal of the sewage sludge..

EPP2 recommends that systems must be regularly inspected and maintained by a competent wastewater professional (holding the industry training certification), even within the first year of service. Servicing, emptying and maintenance records must be kept for a period of five years.

Sapphire Environmental service division provides service and maintenance to cover all the products that we offer. Please contact them on Tel. 01759 369582.

I am buying a new house. How do I find out if the tank is EPP2 approved?

All properties connected to private sewage tanks must clearly display a sign that details the make and model of product installed. This is a Building Regulation requirement.

EPP2 also requires property owners to keep a five-year maintenance record for inspection on request.

The Environment Agency's own database, also has a record of all properties that have either an exemption or a permit, listed by address and twelve-figure map grid reference.

The Home Information Pack (HIP) should have the sewage systems details of make and model.

WTE Ltd. can help you fill in all the forms and guide you through the maze of sewage regulations free of charge.