One of the drainage solutions for sewage disposal if your home or business is not connected to the mains sewer is septic tank installation. A septic tank consists of a chamber located below ground level in which solid waste sinks to the bottom, while liquids flow out and soak into the ground.

Whether you have and use an existing septic tank installation or are thinking of installing one, you may be classed as an ‘operator’. If this is the case, then you are subject to what are called general binding rules by the Environment Agency, a government body. If you are unable to meet these rules for whatever reason, then you will need to apply for a permit. So who is classed as the operator of such a facility? Well, the government guidelines state that you are an operator if you are the legal owner of the property that uses the septic tank system installation. If use of the tank is shared by two or more properties, then each of those property owners is classed as an operator and they are jointly responsible for complying with the rules. Finally, if you are not the property owner but rent the property, for instance, and have a written agreement in place with the legal owner to carry out maintenance of the system, then you are classed as the operator. Such a clause might appear in your tenancy agreement. The Environment Agency will be able to clarify your status as operator if you are unsure.

So what responsibilities fall to the operator under these general binding rules? Broadly speaking, first, you have an obligation to ensure that the effluent emerging from the property is domestic. In other words, the sewage must be routine waste from a toilet, bath or shower, or from the kitchen, or either a private residence or a business. Secondly, it must not cause pollution. This includes sewage smells, an overflow of sludge or traces of scum or foam where the sewage is released. If your sewage is to be released to the ground, for example in your own back garden, then you must use a septic tank or a small sewage treatment plant, either of which treats the liquid before it flows out into a drainage field. The septic tank or sewage treatment plant must meet British Standard BS EN 12566, must be installed correctly and must also have sufficient capacity to cope with the level of waste discharged from your property. It must also be emptied regularly and maintained in line with manufacturer’s regulations; and the disposal of the waste sludge must be carried out by a registered waste carrier. If waste is to be released into a surface water, then a septic tank is not appropriate: in this case, a small sewage treatment plant is essential.

This is just a broad overview of the general binding rules. If you are interested in septic tank installation, it’s essential you choose an experienced company to provide and install the facility, to ensure you receive the best advice and do not fall foul of government regulations.