What Do I Need To Know About Septic Tanks?
Septic tanks are one of the most popular off-mains drainage solutions in the UK, offering households and properties an efficient and environmentally friendly method of waste disposal.
Commonly found in rural locations, septic tanks are increasingly providing a cost-effective way to disconnect from public sewers in more urban areas, too. There are many benefits to having a septic tank installed on your property, but before you do you’re probably wondering what procedures, regulations or restrictions you need to know about.
In this article, we take a look at what you need to know about septic tanks, from design and installation through to maintenance and repair.
Why Might I Need to Install a Septic Tank?
Septic tanks are installed as off-mains drainage and waste disposal solutions. They’re a way to dispose of household sewage or to meet the demands of small-scale commercial properties without access to the public sewer systems.
Septic tanks are connected to a building through a series of pipes. Household waste is ejected into the pipes and makes its way to a large tank, which is built outside the house. They’re usually buried below ground to keep them out of sight.
The septic tank system uses a natural process to separate liquids from solids, before breaking down any harmful bacteria. The clean wastewater is then ejected from the septic tank where it can be safely drained off into the surrounding environment. It’s a self-sufficient, environmentally friendly and cost-effective way to dispose of waste outside the mains sewers.
The primary reason for installing septic tanks in a garden include the following:
- No access to public sewers in rural locations
- A cost-effective alternative to high public sewerage and drainage costs
- An environmentally friendly waste disposal method
What Regulations Do I Need to Know?
Before digging a hole and installing a septic tank, there are government rules and regulations that need to be met and followed. Failure to adhere to government regulations can result in large fines, so it’s always wise to check things over with a septic tank professional who will be up to date on ever-changing laws.
For the majority of small-scale household septic tanks, planning permission and permits won’t be needed, however.
Building Regulations and Planning Permission
The first thing to check is whether or not you will need planning permission to install a septic tank. This has to be checked with the local council, but unless it’s a huge tank or you’re in a sensitive area of environmental concern, you’ll only need to meet building regulations.
Building regulations are a set of health and safety rules that must be followed. They are in your own interest to follow, as they are designed to ensure that any building work carried out on a property is safe and meets environmental standards.
General Binding Rules
Septic tank operators also need to follow a set of regulations known as general binding rules. These rules set out the quantity of liquid that can be discharged from a septic tank each day, and where the liquid can be discharged too.
The most important general binding rules include the following:
- Septic tanks must discharge less than 2,000 litres of wastewater per day
- Wastewater must not be ejected directly into watercourses or areas of environmental concern
- Wastewater must be discharged at least 50 metres from wells or water sources
- Installation must meet safe building regulations standards
- The owner must keep the septic tank maintained to avoid pollution
If your septic tank installation will go over the discharge limit or if you’re going to be discharging into areas of environmental concern or water sources, then you’ll effectively be in breach of the general binding rules. If this is going to happen, you need to apply for a permit to operate outside of the general binding rules.
In many cases, you’ll need to upgrade from a septic tank to a less polluting sewage treatment plant if you need to discharge wastewater into watercourses. Sewage treatment plants apply a further level of treatment to waste but aren’t quite as cost-effective or easy to maintain. You should check with the local council or environmental authority if your discharge area would be within a protected area and whether a septic tank is suitable for your needs.
How Do I Maintain a Septic Tank?
Once you’ve checked all your regulations and had your septic tank successfully installed in your back garden, you can confidently leave it to its own devices for most of the year.
Septic tanks are incredibly self-sufficient, but there is still maintenance work that needs to be carried out. Septic tanks separate solids and liquids, but only the liquid part of the waste is discharged. The solids remain in the tank, and while some are broken down over time much of it simply turns into sludge. Eventually, you’ll need to have your septic tank emptied or it will start to clog up and stop working efficiently.
You could also experience pipe blockages or breakages, while bad weather could damage a tank if it’s not buried underground. It’s good to inspect your tank when you can, but often the most obvious sign is the smell. Septic tanks shouldn’t smell if they’re doing their job properly. As soon as you smell a bad odour wafting across the garden, it’s time to call in a professional.
It’s good practice to have your septic tank serviced and emptied every 12 months by a professional, regardless of how efficiently you think your system might be working. They’ll not only keep it in working order but will be able to catch any problems before they escalate and cause large breakages further down the line.
Need Help With Septic Tanks? Contact OMDI for Your Free Quote
Our expert team at OMDI has 20 years’ experience designing, installing and maintaining septic tanks and sewage treatment plants, alongside other off-mains drainage and treatment solutions. Our friendly and professional staff are happy to talk you through the design, installation and maintenance process behind septic tanks in more detail. Contact OMDI today for more information and to obtain a free quote.