As of the 1st January 2020 existing septic tanks that currently discharge directly to a stream or water course will no longer be compliant and must be upgraded.
The two ways to upgrade are either to install a drainage field or replace your septic tank with a treatment plant.
SMALL TREATMENT PLANTS work in a similar way to septic tanks but use mechanical parts to aerate the bacteria, which makes them effective in treating wastewater allowing that consequently allows them to discharge to a drainage field or infiltration bed or directly to flowing water. You cannot use a soakaway designed for rainwater, well or borehole to discharge effluent to the ground: if your system includes a soakaway you must either change it to a drainage field or apply for a permit from the Environment Agency (EA).
When is an EA permit required?
- If you discharge more than 2 cubic metres (2,000 litres) per day to the ground or 5 cubic metres (5,000 litres) per day to flowing water. An average person produces 150 litres of waste per day, so an average individual house is very unlikely to need a permit.
- If your septic tank discharges to watercourse, well, borehole or soakaway designed for rainwater.
- If you have or plan to have a discharge to ground in a SPZ1.
- You are within 30 metres of a public sewer (or the multiples thereof) but feel you are unable to connect to it.
- You are in or within 50 metres of certain designated landscapes. These include ancient Woodland, Special Areas of Conservation (SAC), Special Protection Areas (SPA), Ramsar sites and biological Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).
Use the Magic map to check http://www.natureonthemap.naturalengland.org.uk/
You can contact the EA for advice here https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/environment-agency#org-contacts
CESSPITS/CESSPOOLS are different because the raw sewage is stored in a sealed tank rather than being treated and discharged. They are not covered by the general binding rules but must be emptied by a registered waste carrier regularly, normally once a year, when full and must not be allowed to overflow or leak.
See the full list of general binding rules at