Septic Tanks: registration requirement under review in England
The Environment Agency has announced in August 2011 that the requirement to register small domestic sewage discharges to groundwater from septic tanks and package sewage treatment plants by January 1st 2012 has been suspended in England, though not Wales.
The requirement to register was as a result of the European Union Water Framework Directive (2000/60/EC), implemented in the UK by the Environment Permitting Regulations 2010. However, the Environment Agency is now undertaking a joint review with the Government on the requirement to register septic tanks and a consultation on the options will be announced in the coming few weeks.
Householders can still register their small domestic sewage discharges, including septic tanks, if they so wish, however there is no obligation to do so for those in England while the review is taking pace. Those in Wales are currently still obliged to register.
The Environment Agency state that the registration scheme for small sewage discharges such as septic tanks was originally thought of as the least burdensome way of controlling such discharges. In England and Wales there are 300,000 septic tanks which treat the sewage from approximately one million people. Concerns surround the potential pollution risk to rivers, coastal waters and habitats if septic tanks are not properly maintained or if there are clusters of them. Registration would exempt the need for an environmental permit where the risk of pollution is low.
The Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and the Environment Agency are now considering whether the registration scheme is the most appropriate and whether there are opportunities for simplification. The Environment Agency has stated that if the review concludes that the registration system needs to remain in place there is no intention to charge for registration. They have also guaranteed that plenty of notice and adequate publicity will be provided to advise people on any action they are required to take once the regulatory system has been concluded post-review.
The management of septic tanks has already come under scrutiny vis-à-vis EU law. Ireland has fallen foul of EU law over its management of domestic waste water and septic tanks. In October 2009 the European Court of Justice ruled that 25 of Ireland’s 26 counties had failed to comply with the EU Waste Directive (2006/12/EC) governing septic tanks and other treatment systems. In November 2010 the Commission formally asked Ireland to comply with the ECJ ruling. In May 2011 it was reported that the European Commission announced that Ireland should pay a daily fine of more than EUR 26,000 until it complies with the 2009 ECJ ruling, which urged it to carry out inspections on domestic septic tanks as required by the Waste Framework Directive.
Last Updated (Thursday, 15 September 2011 13:03)