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Septic Tank Regulations 2020 England, Wales and Scotland

If you are responsible for a property that has a septic tank (owner, tenant or shared ‘operator’) or are buying a property with a septic tank, you need to be aware of an upcoming legal obligation to upgrade by 2020 which might affect you.

Please use this information to determine if you will be required to take action towards compliance before 2020 to avoid breaching regulations and incurring an unwanted fine of up to £100,000.

New Septic Tank Regulations 2020: Will This Affect You?

New septic tank regulations 2020 under the Environment Agency’s ‘General Binding Rules’ came into force on 1 January 2015.

Under the new rules, if you have a septic tank that discharges directly to a surface water (stream, ditch, river etc.)  you MUST replace or upgrade your septic tank to a full sewage treatment plant by 1 January 2020 or when you sell your property, (if it is before this date).

If your current sewage treatment system has EN12566-3 certification, this means it is legal and safe to discharge into a watercourse and no action should be required.

Septic tanks that currently discharge via a drainage field into the ground are not expected to be affected.

It is your responsibility, as the owner of the septic tank or sewage treatment system, to ensure you comply with these rules. If you are unsure whether or not your sewage effluent is discharged to surface water or would like further information RA Dalton is happy to give advice and support throughout the process. Call the friendly office team on 01388 537030 now!

Septic Tank Regulations 2020 Wales & Scotland

If your property resides in Scotland or Wales, you MUST register your septic tank or sewage treatment plant with either SEPA (Scotland) or Natural Resources (Wales) before 2020. In Wales you will require a Consent of Discharge for any discharge to ground via a drain field or watercourse. 

How To Become 2020 Compliant

There are three main ways in which you can comply with the new regulations – each option will have site specific conditions to consider:

  • Swap your septic tank for a sewage treatment plant - Sewage treatment plants produce a cleaner form of water, suitable to discharge straight to a watercourse.

  • Install a drainage field - This will take the waste water from your septic tank, and disperse it safely into the ground without causing pollution.

  • Connect your existing tank to mains sewer - Your local water company will be able to advise whether or not connection to mains sewer is a feasible solution, however this is a less likely option.

The new legislation aims to have a positive effect on our environment. Your septic tank must meet the new, higher standards. This includes being the correct size, installed correctly, regularly emptied and maintained. These standards are available to find at  However, if your septic tank was installed before 1983, then this was before any British standards were in place and your tank should  not require any alterations, however to ensure clarity, we would advise that you contact the Environment Agency direct

Septic Tank Regulations 2020 Environment Agency

As always, there are a number of further restrictions and exemptions that may apply. If this rule change applies to your property, we’re happy to help you decide what to do next and, of course, The Environment Agency are always on hand to help.