Septic tanks and sewage treatment plants: what you need to do

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General binding rules for septic tanks and small sewage treatment plants

You must make sure your system meets the ‘general binding rules’ if you’re responsible for (the ‘operator’ of) either:

  • a septic tank (an underground tank where the solids sink to the bottom and the liquid flows out and soaks through the ground)
  • a small sewage treatment plant (also known as a ‘package treatment plant’ - a system that treats the liquid so it’s clean enough to go into the ground or a surface water)

If you meet the general binding rules, you do not need a permit.

Check if your discharge is domestic sewage

The general binding rules only apply to domestic sewage - for example from a toilet, bathroom, shower or kitchen of a house, flat or business. Find out what counts as domestic sewage.

If your discharge is not domestic sewage you must apply for a permit.

Check which rules to follow

The general binding rules vary depending on where you release (‘discharge’) sewage. Find out about the:

Ask your local installation or maintenance company if you’re not sure what sort of system you have.

If you do not meet the general binding rules

You might need to make changes in order to meet the general binding rules. For example, if you have a non-standard treatment system (such as discharging to a borehole) you might need to change the system you use.

Only apply for a permit if you cannot meet the general binding rules. You will not be given a permit if you could meet the general binding rules.