EPP2 Water Discharge Consent, exemption, Permit, legislation for Septic Tanks and off-mains systems

Posted on 14 Apr 2015 by Fabian Belin

Errors made during the installation of a septic system or any type of wastewater treatment product may lead to inconvenience and expense at a later date. Registering for the necessary exemptions is a prerequisite for a long lasting septic system, as is getting the correct  building approvals from the relevant local authorities.

It is fully expected that at some point in the near future a property using an off-mains sewage system will have to be registered with the Environment Agency under EPP2. This will apply to both new and existing septic systems, and for all discharges from off-mains sewage treatment plants and septic tanks. These new EPP2 standards will become increasingly recognised in the UK housing market.

In April 2010 the traditional Consent to Discharge granted by the Environment Agency was replaced by a Permit to Discharge under the Environmental Permitting Programme Second Phase (or EPP2). The EPP2 regulation became law on 6th April 2010 precisely.

If you are the owner of a septic tank or sewage treatment plant, then you are affected by the EPP2.  The EPP2 also applies if you are replacing your septic tank or sewage plant. You can however register for an Exemption from a Permit to Discharge for certain situations. Qualification depends on various criteria including the amount of discharge, the make of septic tank or treatment plant (which should be tested EN 12566-3), plant location, installation work, maintenance contract...

Sewage treatment plants discharging less than 5m3 per day into surface water or septic Tanks discharging less than 2m3 per day into groundwater may qualify for this exemption. These off-mains septic systems should indeed not pose a pollution problem if properly used and maintained, especially sewage treatment plants holding the EN 12566-3 Certificate (as BIOROCK does)

For detailed information and specific study of your project, please feel free to give us a call.

The EPP2: A governmental review of the registration requirement for septic tanks and sewage treatment plants.

The EPP2 is part of a Government programme established to improve the regulations. The EPP2 forms part of the Environmental Permitting Regulations.

EPP2 is the second phase of the Environmental Permitting Programme. Below are the statements and recommendations of the EPP2:

  • That industry ‘best practice’ needs to be adhered to.
  • That manufacturer’s installation instructions must be followed by septic system installers and that specialist installation engineers should be used for the installation work.
  • That septic systems must be inspected and maintained on a regular basis by an industry trained, competent wastewater professional.
  • That both servicing and maintenance records must be kept for a minimum period of five years.
  • That a maintenance plan should be set up for proper operation of the septic system in accordance with both the manufacturers maintenance instructions and code of practice guidelines of the manufacturing industry.
  • That the septic tank should be desludged regularly. Emptying should be conducted by companies demonstrating competency and a duty of care with regard to final disposal of the sewage waste residue.

To help understand EPP2, BIOROCK provides answers to the following questions that may arise with regard to this new legistalion for septic tanks:

**BIOROCK Frequently Asked Questions on the registration of small sewage discharges:

1. What are the costs involved by EPP2?

The exemption registration is totally free of charge, provided that the plant meets the Discharge Permit and Exemption. (Criteria link below) If your septic system  doesn’t meet criteria then you may have to apply for a Permit, which is not free.

2. I have had an old existing septic tank for years. Does EPP2 apply to me?

If you hold an existing Consent to Discharge then you do not need to register under the EPP2. If you do not have an existing Consent to Discharge, then you have to apply for a EPP2 exemption or permit.

Note that normally, any existing septic tank and sewage treatment plant in operation and installed not possessing a consent to discharge is not in line with the Environmental Agency regulations. If you are in this position, then you will need to apply for a new application to gain an EPP2 exemption.

3. How do I know how big my tank is? How do I know the volume of discharge?

The answer relates to how many litres of treated water end up in the ground via your soakaway per day. This information is very often hard to find, especially if you are equipped with an old brick septic tank. Our position is: get a professional on site to size your septic system and advise.

4. My plant is EPP2 approved; do I still require planning permission from the local authorities?

You do: Contacting the relevant local authority is mandatory before installing a new septic system. The location and installation need further planning or building controls. Planning Permission will also be needed if you are replacing an existing system.

5. Does EPP2 require me to regularly inspect and maintain the tank? What routine maintenance and inspection is mandatory?

EPP2 requires property owners to be able to present a five-year record of maintenance and inspection on request. You need to keep a record of all maintenance on your septic system, including septic tanks and /or primary tanks including emptying. All sewage systems must be operated and maintained in accordance with the manufacturer’s maintenance manual.

EPP2 also recommends regular emptying by licensed companies and experts in their field.

6. Do I need a professional installer to install the tank?

No, it is not mandatory for a professional installer to do the work. EPP2 stipulates that “industry best practice needs to be adhered to” and that “Manufacturers installation instructions must be followed” and that specialist installation engineers should be employed for the installation.

BIOROCK strongly advises you to hire professionals to make sure that the installation is absolutely correct, this will save you time and money and validate the product warranty. BIOROCK works with a network of accredited Installers and can advise you on request.

7. How will I know if the unit installed has been EPP2 approved?

Any package sewage treatment plant which is EN-12566 tested is approved: Sewage Treatment Plants that are approved for use under the EPP2 regulations have all undergone the EN-12566 testing procedure. Note that building Regulations require owners of off-mains sewage treatment plants or septic tanks to clearly display details of the products model, branding…which is in use.

Systems not on the list are likely to be denied an Exemption To Discharge because there is no way of telling if they work properly or not.

As an example, BIOROCK achieved a 99.3% reduction in suspended solids on the EN-12566-3 testing. BIOROCK treatment plants are fully tested EN-12566-3. Our certificate and full testing reports are available upon request.

Note that by not complying with the rules and installing a sewage system that is not approved, without an exemption or permit, you risk uncomfortable environmental pollution but also expose yourself to building regulation and planning permission violations which may lead to heavy fines.

If you are building a house: All properties connected to private septic systems must display details of the make and model of the product installed as a Building Regulation requirement. The Environment Agency has a record of all exemptions and permits. You may contact them to find out information about the property. The Home Information Pack (HIP) also states the sewage systems details (brand, model, technical specifications in some cases)

8) What are the reasons for not registering to EPP2?

You don't need to register if you tick the following boxes:

  • You discharge 5 cubic metres per day* or less via a package sewage treatment plant directly to surface water such as a ditch or a stream.
  • You discharge directly to ground a volume of treated water of 2 cubic metres per day* or less via a septic tank followed by a soakaway. Make sure that the discharge point is outside a groundwater source protection (zone 1).

*5m³ is equivalent to 31 PE (people occupying a single property). 2m³ is equivalent to 9 PE for a single dwelling (9 people using water facilities in a single property)

  • The sewage effluent you discharge is only domestic
  • Your sewage systems “routine maintenance” is carried out in accordance with either the manufacturer's instructions or the British Water codes of practice.
  • You are not within 50 meters of a private drinking water or irrigation water supply and the water discharged does cause neither groundwater nor surface water pollution.

You are planning a new discharge to ground or surface water and you can’t meet these conditions: In this case you may need a permit.

Still confused? Call us for more information, we will be pleased to help and inform.

You may also contact the Environment Agency, where you can register for your exemption:

More information:

Septic tanks and treatment plants: permits and exemptions

Water discharge and groundwater activity exemptions

Septic systems registrations in Wales

To apply online for an exemption

For more information about EN-12566 - 3 tested sewage plants: visit the British Water website