Septic tank and treatment plant registration



August 2011 - Update


The requirement to register was a result of regulations made in 2010 by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and the Welsh Government, as part of the implementation of the European Union Water Framework Directive. Registration was considered to provide the lightest touch approach to meet legal obligations.
However, we are now undertaking a joint review with Government on the requirement to register small domestic sewage discharges in England, details of which will be announced in the next few weeks. While the review is underway, we will not require the registration of small domestic sewage discharges, including septic tanks, in England - although householders can still register if they wish.



February 2011


Every household needs to register their septic tank before the deadline January 2012.



You need to register your septic tank for a wastewater discharge permit or exemption with the Environment Agency. The deadline for registration is 1 January 2012.

Registration is free of charge.

From 1 January 2012 any property with a septic tank drainage system must hold an Environmental Permit or Exemption registered with the Environment Agency, to cover the wastewater discharge from their septic tank system.
Exemption Registration for private individuals is free of charge and can be done either on-line or using the downloadable form at the Environment Agency website.

You need to register your sewage now, if it is 5 cubic metres per day or less and is to surface water. This is roughly equivalent to the sewage generated from 31 occupants in a single property
If it is 2 cubic metres per day or less and is to ground, you need to register by 1 January 2012. This is roughly equivalent to the sewage generated from 9 occupants in a single property

Once you have your registration you must ensure:
• That new systems have been properly installed;
• maintenance is undertaken by someone who is competent and you should have a maintenance plan;

An authorised person must only carry out desludging;
• Clean roof or surface water does not enter the system;
• Chemicals and solvents do not enter the ground water.
• You should keep any paperwork and receipts provided by service engineers, tank emptiers, etc. for at least five years.

Who needs to register?


An occupier of land where a small sewage discharge activity is in operation (usually the householder or occupier), who wishes to register the discharge as exempt should give us the details of the discharge. If you already hold Consent to Discharge or an Environmental Permit then you do not need to register.

Why do I need to register?


“The Government has given the Environment Agency a duty to protect and manage water resources and we have robust evidence that septic tanks can in some circumstances cause pollution. For example, septic tanks can interfere with drinking water supplies and can harm the ecology of some rivers, wetlands and groundwater dependent terrestrial ecosystems. Pollution can occur via pathogens, nitrate, ammonia, pesticides, pharmaceuticals and phosphate. Pollution can also arise if disposal systems are incorrectly installed, poorly maintained or badly sited. A properly designed, used and maintained sewage treatment system can be very effective at attenuating potential pollutants. We also have to consider the cumulative risk of pollution from groups of discharges, which can be significant. To fulfill our role we need to know where discharges are so we can identify the risk and can take appropriate action. Most householders who have a properly maintained system will just need to register. The law does not necessarily require householders to install new systems or incur financial burden; just to register their discharge and agree to some general criteria for upkeep, maintenance and correct usage.”

I have had my tank for years. Do I need to register?


Yes. If your tank is a septic tank or treatment plant (Not a cesspool) it needs to be registered. New legislation (the Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations, 2010) requires us to create a register of small sewage discharges.
Existing discharges
If the discharge was already being made before 6 April 2010 it is an existing discharge. If you have upgraded or replaced your treatment system2 (or are planning to do so) but still make the discharge to the same place, then this is still an existing discharge. Registration of an existing discharge is conditional on them being operated and maintained properly in order to avoid pollution.
Discharges from sewage treatment systems that started before 6 April 2010 are designated as existing discharges and must meet design standards at the time of installation.
New discharges
All discharges made on or after 6 April 2010 are new discharges. If you have an existing system but plan to change or have changed the point of discharge since 6 April 2010, then this should be treated as a new discharge. All new discharges must meet the full installation and operating criteria set out in this technical guidance.

Are you expecting me to replace my old system?


No, but in order to register you must agree to certain criteria, such as regular desluding and maintaining your sewage treatment system.

Moving house?


When a new occupier takes over the property and hence registration, they will not need to re-register but you will need to provide to them in writing or leave these details with your landlord:
• Notice that the discharge has to continue to comply with the criteria for registration;
• A description of the system and any manuals you may have; and
• Records / receipts of any servicing and desludging.

Having the correct permit or exemption is important if you come to sell your house. The buyer will require details of your discharge or permit and maintenance records. They will not need to register again and will not need to inform the Environment Agency of the change of ownership. If you are about to buy a property with a septic tank then you should check that, either the septic tank has already been registered, or get the current owner to register it with exempt status (or get a permit) before exchange of contracts and completion.

How do I register my septic tank ?


To register online: Click here.

You can also register by post if you print out and complete this paper application form.

'Frequently asked questions' may help you to understand the registration process

For full, and latest, details on registration go the the environment agency website.

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