Septic tanks and other systems

In rural areas where there is no public sewer connection, small individual waste systems are used which are designed to either contain the effluent and require emptying or treat the effluent before discharging into the surrounding land or drainage ditches.

A Cesspit or Cesspool is an example of a contained system that requires periodic emptying. Septic Tanks and Package Treatment Plants are systems that break down the effluent so that it can be discharged into the surrounding land or to a watercourse, provided it meets the quality criteria set by the Environment Agency.

It is the responsibility of the owner or occupier of premises served by these systems to ensure that they work correctly. If the septic tank or cesspool serves several properties, then there is likely to be a shared responsibility. 

In order to prevent pollution from small sewage discharges, the Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) (Amendment) Regulations 2010, requires some small sewage discharges to be permitted. Further guidance and information can be found by the following links:

How to deal with drainage problems

If a problem has occurred from a blocked drain, cesspool, septic tank or package treatment plant on your property, you should arrange for the pipe to be cleared and/or repaired.

If a problem has arisen at your house and other properties also use the pipe, all the properties up stream of the blocked or damaged pipe will have a responsibility and should share the costs to have the problem remedied. It may be necessary for all the parties to meet and agree for someone to organise the work.

What do we do?

Our Environmental Protection Team investigate complaints about problems with drainage systems. We aim to establish:

  • The nature of the problem
  • Where it occurs
  • Who is responsible

If there is a problem that requires work to be carried out we will explain people’s responsibilities and try to agree a way forward to ensure that the drainage system is restored. If works are required and we cannot get informal agreement from the people who are responsible then we can use the law, serving notices requiring action within a specified time period. If the work is still not carried out then we can seek a legal prosecution or do the work and claim the costs back, including the extra costs of our involvement.

Our role is to ensure that the people who are legally responsible for remedying a defective drainage system take the appropriate action within a reasonable time period which in turn ensures the protection of public health.

If you require any further information or advice please contact customer services using the general enquiries form.