You must follow these additional rules if you:
- started a new discharge from a small sewage treatment plant on or after 1 January 2015
- had a discharge to ground before 1 January 2015 which you now want to change to discharge to a surface water (or the other way round)
- had a discharge to a surface water before 1 January 2015 and you want to install a new drainage pipe which discharges more than 10 metres away from the existing one or which goes to a different surface water
Check if there’s a public sewer nearby
If any part of the building your treatment plant serves is within 30 metres of a public sewer, the Environment Agency will not allow you to start a new discharge from a sewage treatment plant under the general binding rules.
If you are building a development of more than one property, this distance must be multiplied by the number of properties. For example, if there are 3 properties then the distance will be 3 x 30 metres = 90 metres.
To find out if there is a public sewer near your property, contact your local water company.
If there is a good reason why you cannot connect to the sewer (for example, there is a river or a hill in the way) then you must apply for a permit so that the Environment Agency can decide whether to allow you to use a sewage treatment plant instead. Contact the Environment Agency to find out what information you will need to put in your application.
Building regulations and planning approval
You must have planning permission and Building Regulations approval if you have or are planning to install a new sewage treatment plant.
Check if the discharge point is in or near a designated sensitive area
If you have or are planning to start a new discharge to a surface water in or near to a designated sensitive area, you must apply for a permit.
You will need a permit if the new discharge will be in or within 500 metres of any:
You will also need a permit if the new discharge will be in or within:
Contact the Environment Agency
- 200 metres of an aquatic local nature reserve
- 50 metres of a chalk river or aquatic local wildlife site
to check if you’re in or near a designated sensitive area and to find out if you need a permit.
Make sure the surface water has flow
New discharges are not allowed to a ditch or a surface water that does not contain flowing water throughout the whole year. That is unless there is a drought or an unusually long period of dry weather.
New discharges to watercourses that seasonally dry up are not allowed under the general binding rules, nor are discharges to enclosed lakes or ponds.
Contact the Environment Agency if you are unsure whether the surface water you want to discharge to is suitable.
Using a partial drainage field - check it meets the requirements
A partial drainage field (also known as a seasonal soakaway) is a system for discharging to water which allows effluent to drain into the ground when levels in the watercourse are low, and into the watercourse when groundwater levels are high.
If you’re using a partial drainage field for a new discharge, you must install it within 10 metres of the edge of the watercourse and you must only use it with a small sewage treatment plant, not a septic tank.
See the full list of general binding rules published by the government.
If there are any rules you cannot comply with contact the Environment Agency to discuss what you need to do.