War Memorial Gary Trouton

July editorial

July 2011

The Editor provides information on how to obtain exemption from a septic tank licence

Your Septic tank Reminder

In this month's What Does the Doctor Think? Dr Nisbett raises the fact that septic tanks now need to be licensed. Various attempts to arrange for such licences have met with at best a varied response.

The first news of this new requirement was published in The Lynn News on Friday 8th April in an article from Nicola Currie, Director CLA East. In summary, this article advised readers that a change in legislation contained in Environmental Permitting Regulations 2010 now requires all the discharge from septic tanks and sewage treatment plants to be authorised by an environmental permit or to be registered as exempt from holding the permit. If the discharge is into a watercourse registration must be made immediately.

An exemption can usually be obtained as long as the discharge is less than 5 cubic metres daily via a sewage treatment plant or septic tank. Most house holders should qualify to register for the exemption which is currently free.

If the discharge is into the ground, using a soak-away, this must be registered with the Environment Agency by 1 January 2012. In these circumstances an exemption can usually be obtained provided it is less than 2 cubic metres which is roughly the amount discharged by an eight-bedroom house.

Once registered, various conditions must be complied with, such a proper maintenance inspections and removal of sludge. No application will need to be made for those who already hold a Consent to Discharge or an Environmental Permit. When a house which has a septic tank is sold, the seller must provide the buyer with details of certification and details of all maintenance records. The new owner will not need to register again or to inform the Environment Agency of the change of ownership.

Full details and an on-line application can be found on the Environment Agency's website :


Armed with this information I and my neighbour attempted to apply for this septic tank permit. Phone calls to the King's Lynn & West Norfolk Borough Council revealed that they had no idea of this requirement which they felt was a matter for the Environment Agency. A second Stoke Ferry resident phoned the Environment Agency and asked for an application form. When this arrived is was obvious that the form had no relevance to private dwellings with septic tanks. He then made a second call to the Environment Agency and discussions with a senior member of that organisation suggested that the requirement to register domestic septic tanks applied only to properties that drew their water from the ground in which a septic tanks was located.

The results of these various forms of enquiry left those of us involved unable to determine whether or not the new legislation applied to domestic septic tanks or only to specific installations which draws water from the ground rather than the main water supply.

Register a domestic sewage discharge

What to do if your home has no mains drainage and you need a sewage treatment system.

Many homes are not connected to a public sewer because they are located in the countryside or in other places that are too far away from sewers. They use small, private sewage treatment systems, septic tanks or, in exceptional circumstances cesspools to deal with their domestic sewage. If correctly located, designed and installed, these systems protect the environment from sewage pollution, but they must be properly maintained.

What do I need to do?

For new homes, it is always best to connect to a public foul sewer but if you can't, we provide guidance on other sewage treatment and disposal options:

* Treatment and disposal of sewage where no foul sewer is available (July 2006) (PDF, 244KB)

Discharges from septic tanks and small sewage treatment plants are mainly exempt from the need to have an environmental permit, but they will all need to be registered with us. Discharges to rivers and streams need to be registered now and discharges which go into the ground must be registered by 31 December 2011.

However, if you leave the registration until this date, you may have a significant delay of up to four months if your discharge is in a sensitive area. This will mean that you do not meet the registration criteria and will require an environmental permit urgently.

You can register for free, using our online system, if:

* the tank or small sewage treatment plant is not near to a protected or designated area for the natural environment;

* it's used to treat sewage from 11 people (2 cubic metres) per day or less and the discharge goes into the ground; or

* it's used to treat sewage from 27 people (5 cubic metres) per day or less and the discharge goes into a river or stream.

If you need more information on calculating sewage volumes, please read the British Water publication 'Flows and Loads - 3' which is available on the British Water website. There is a link for this in the external links box on the right-hand side of this page.

If we can't accept the registration for any reason then we will write to suggest you apply for a permit. There is a one-off charge for a permit application to cover a risk assessment of the discharge.

When should I use this form?

The Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2010 say that most discharges to surface and groundwater must have a permit. However, there are some

exceptions. These are called exemptions. Exemptions are activities that do not need a permit but do need to be registered. We have provided this form for you to register

those water related activities listed under part B.

NOTE: you cannot apply for an exemption if the discharge you are making to groundwater is within 50 metres of an abstraction used for drinking water. You will need to apply for a bespoke environmental permit, please see our website for further information on http://www.environmentagency.gov.uk/business/topics/permitting/32318.aspx

You can register online at http://www.environment-agency.

gov.uk/business/topics/107355.aspx. You may find registering online quicker and easier than printing off this form and sending it in by post. If you do not have access to the

internet, most public libraries will allow you to use the internet free of charge (you will need to have an email address).

You can register as many exemptions as you want on this form. You can register other locations for the same exemptions by attaching a sheet with the places listed. If you

want to register different exemptions at more than one location, you must make separate applications.

Where can I find the guidance?

You can find a full description of the water related exemptions on our website or you can email us at access to the internet, you can contact our National Customer

Contact Centre for support by calling us on 08708 506 506.

How much does it cost?

There is no charge for registering these exemptions.

How do I register?

It's an easy six-step process.

Step 1 Read the guidance.

Step 2 Fill in parts A and B.

Step 3 Read the information in parts C and D.

Step 4 Read the information in part E and tick the box if


Step 5 Tick the declaration in part F.

Step 6 Post the form to us with a map showing the

discharge point and any other supporting

information to the address in part F.

What happens when we receive your form?

When we receive your form we will enter it on our system and will tell you by post or email that your exemption is now registered. We have 15 working days to do this. You do not

have to renew water discharge exemptions. Water discharge exemptions are not available in some areas. If this is the case, we will let you know and explain the process you need to follow to apply for a permit.

If you want to make any changes to your registration, please contact our National Customer Contact Centre on 08708 506 506 or email us at enquiries@environment-agency.gov.uk.

You also need to let us know as soon as possible if you change any of the contact details for your exemptions.

Ray Thompson

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