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Septic Tank Regulations

Septic Tank Regulations and EPP2 How Does it Affect You


On 1 January 2015 new regulations came into effect which replaced the exemption registration system in England with general binding rules (GBRs).  Registration is no longer required and customers need to follow the GBRs instead. 

The requirements of the GBRs are very similar to the previous exemption registration system except customers no longer need (or are able) to register.

You must also ensure that you can comply with the rest of the general binding rules (GBRs) which apply to small sewage discharges. 

If you cannot comply with the GBRs you will need to apply for an environmental permit for your discharge.

As explained on our Septic Tank Registration page, the situation for septic tank and sewage treatment plant owners has changed dramatically and further legislation is only a matter of time.

To help owners of these sewage systems, we provide below some frequently asked questions and what we hope will be helpful guidance if you are not connected to mains drainage.

It is now the case that most discharges to surface and groundwater require a permit. However there are some exceptions and these are called exemptions.

Exemptions are activities that don’t need a permit but nonetheless require registration – if you wish to take advantage of UK Septic Tanks Registration Service then please click here. The following information is based on our best understanding of the legislation as it currently stands but this is a rapidly developing area and if you are unsure of anything, please call us on 01296 326111 for some free, impartial advice.

What is EPP2?

EPP2 is a key element of the Government’s ongoing legislative agenda aimed at improving both the regulations and administration connected with protecting the environment and promoting better public health.

EPP2 is part of the Environmental Permitting Regulations (EPR), which is a shared policy initiative involving the Environment Agency, Department for Energy and Climate Change (DEFRA), and the Welsh Assembly.

How does EPP2 affect me?

If you own a septic tank or sewage treatment plant then EPP2 affects you. You will require a ‘Permit to Discharge’, however you may qualify for an exempt status if your system meets certain requirements such as amount of discharge, septic tank or sewage treatment plant model (only EN 12566-3 2005 Certified plants accepted), plant location, intended discharge point, installation and maintenance contract. If you don’t have the time or inclination to complete the application, UK Septic Tanks offer a competitive registration service – we are used to completing these forms on behalf of our customers and we can do this for you for a fixed fee of £64 – please go to our Registration Service page for more details.

Does EPP2 apply throughout the UK?

For the time being EPP2 applies only in England and Wales, however the expectation is that Scotland and Northern Ireland will be included in the not too distant future.

Which systems does the EPP2 cover?

EPP2 covers all sewage treatment plants and septic tanks. It also covers the replacing of a sewage treatment plant or septic tank and either an Exemption or a Permit to Discharge must be obtained before discharging sewage.

What are the criteria for Exemption status?

Broadly speaking they are as follows:

• Sewage Treatment Plants discharging up to 5m3 per day or less into surface water (27 population equivalent)

• Septic Tanks / Sewage Treatment Plants discharging up to 2m3 per day or less into groundwater (11 population equivalent)

• No trade waste

•No available connection to foul sewer within 30m

• EN12566 Certified Product

•Product maintained and/or emptied by suitably qualified person as per manufacturer manual.

•Watercourse must have dilution ratio of 8:1 and does not run dry in summer

• No discharge within 1km of bathing waters, SSSI etc (if discharging to surface waters)

How much will it cost to register for Exemption?

Exemption registration, if granted is free of charge (see criteria in above question). However if your system is not granted an exemption then you may have to apply for a ‘Permit to Discharge’ which can cost up to £850. If you don’t have the time or inclination to complete the application, UK Septic Tanks offer a competitive registration service – we are used to completing these forms on behalf of our customers and we can do this for you for a fixed fee of £64.

Does EPP2 apply if I already have a septic tank or sewage treatment plant?

This will depend on whether or not you already have obtained ‘Consent to Discharge’. If so, then you do not currently need to register under the EPP2. However, we believe this situation will likely change once the current Environment Agency/Government review is completed – see the ‘Septic Tank Registration’ page on our website by clicking here.

 If you do not have ‘Consent to Discharge’, then you must apply for EPP2 exemption or permit to discharge immediately since you could be liable to a substantial fine if your system is currently discharging effluent without registration.

I am about to install a new system - what do I need to do?

Ensure that your new sewage tank or treatment plant has the correct capacity and that it is approved by the Environment Agency. If you are unsure whether a system or plant is approved then please contact UK Septic Tanks for advice. Bear in mind that only sewage treatment plants with the EN 12566-3 2005 certification will be acceptable to the Environment Agency for them to grant you either Exemption or Permit to Discharge Certificates under the new EPP2 Regulations.

How do I know if a product is approved?

Below is a list that based on our understanding of guidance published by the Environment Agency and British Water, contains most of the approved systems currently available in the UK:


Conder Clear-Flo


Pure Flo


Enso Clean


Klargester Biodisc

Klargester Envirosafe

WPL Diamond




If you believe that this list omits a manufacturer who produces a system that satisfies the EN 12566-3 criteria then please let us know and supply a copy of the certificate – we will be pleased to adjust the list accordingly. For obvious reasons UK Septic Tanks cannot guarantee the accuracy of this information nor can we accept any liability for any inaccuracies – this is a dynamic field and it is the responsibility of the property owner/buyer/seller to ensure that the system purchased meets the criteria for approval under EPP2.

What else should I look for when purchasing a system?

It is important to look at a copy of the EN test report, rather than simply the EN test certificate.

EN test certificates will only reveal the percentage reduction of ‘influent pollutants’ whereas the test report will show the results of each of the 38 weekly tests that are required for certification to be granted and how many times the plant failed the UK criteria that must be achieved. These weekly tests analyse criteria such as BOD (the amount of oxygen consumed by microorganisms in breaking down the waste is known as the ‘biochemical oxygen demand’ or BOD), SS (suspended solids) and NH3N (Ammoniacal Nitrogen).

Since the standard of treatment demanded by the Environment Agency is only seen in the performance results (shown in mg/lit) it is highly important that you see EN test report and not merely the Certificate as already mentioned.

As a general rule we recommend you do not purchase equipment that has achieved less than 95% suspended solids reduction, since it is highly likely that the plant in question will have failed to meet the UK Standards on a number of occasions during the test.

My plant is EPP2 approved - do I still need planning permission?

Yes - before you install a new sewage treatment plant you must consult your local authority to establish whether or not you require additional planning or building controls. This will be determined largely by virtue of the intended location and nature of the installation. Please also bear in mind that planning permission will also be required if you are simply replacing an existing system.

What will happen if I don't comply?

You could be liable to prosecution and incur heavy fines due to :

• Environmental pollution.

• Building regulations violation.

•Planning permission violation.

Can anyone install the unit?

It is not mandatory to use a professional installer, but there are risks you will need to consider when installing the unit without someone who is experienced in this field. For example, you will find that most manufacturer requirements for installation must be met or the warranty will be void. Moreover, no sewage treatment plant will work properly if installation is not absolutely correct, and if you have to reinstall, the costs can be higher than for the initial installation.

Please call us at UK Septic Tanks if you would like more information on installations or any related products – we’re happy to help and give you the benefit of our experience in this field so feel free to ring 01296 326111.

Note: This information is based on UK Septic Tanks current understanding of the relevant legislation and legal requirements regarding the disposal of waste.


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