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General binding rules for small sewage discharges

The following general binding rules apply to all small sewage discharges:


to surface
General Binding Rule
1 XThe discharge must be 2 cubic  metres or less per day in volume.
2X The discharge must be 5 cubic metres or less per day in volume
3XXThe sewage must only be domestic
4XXThe discharge must not cause pollution
of surface water or groundwater
5 XThe sewage must receive treatment from a septic tank and infiltration system (drainage field) or a sewage treatment plant and infiltration system.
6X The sewage must receive treatment from a sewage treatment plant
7 XThe discharge must not be within a groundwater Source Protection Zone 1 or within 50 metres from any well, spring or borehole that is used to supply water for domestic or food production purposes.
8X For discharges in tidal waters, the discharge outlet must be below the mean spring low water mark
9XXAll works and equipment used for the treatment of sewage effluent and its discharge must comply with the relevant design and manufacturing standards. i.e. the British Standard that was in force at the time of the installation, and guidance issued by the appropriate authority on the capacity and installation of the equipment.
10XXThe system must be installed and operated in accordance with the manufacturer's specification.
11XXMaintenance must be undertaken by someone who is competent.
12XXWaste sludge from the system must be safely disposed of by an authorised person
13XXIf a property is sold, the operator must give the new operator a written notice stating that a small sewage discharge is being carried out, and giving a description of the waste water system and its maintenance requirements.
14XXThe operator must ensure the system is appropriately decommissioned where it ceases to be in operation so that there is no risk of pollutants or polluting matter entering groundwater, inland fresh waters or coastal waters.
15XXNew discharges must not be within 30
metres of a public foul sewer
16XXFor new discharges, the operator must ensure that the necessary planning and building control approvals for the treatment system are in place.
17X New discharges must not be in or within: 500 metres of a Special Area of Conservation (SAC), Special Protection Area (SPA), Ramsar site, biological Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI),
freshwater pearl mussel population, designated bathing water, or protected shellfish water; 200 metres of an aquatic local nature reserve; 50 metres of a chalk river or aquatic local wildlife site.
18 XNew discharges must not be in, or within 50 metres of, a Special Area of Conservation (SAC), Special Protection Area (SPA), Ramsar site, or biological Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), and must not be in an Ancient Woodland.
19X New discharges must be made to a watercourse that normally has flow throughout the year.
20  For new discharges, any partial drainage field must be installed within 10 metres of the bank side of the watercourse
21X New discharges must not be made to an enclosed lake or pond.

Explanatory Note

General binding rules is a term given to legally binding requirements in regulations that set the minimum standards or conditions which apply. In this case the conditions are set in the Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2014.

The general binding rules consist of the conditions together with technical requirements specified by the Environment Agency in guidance to operators. Compliance with these requirements is part of the conditions. These will apply to anyone who has a septic tank or sewage treatment plant that makes a small sewage discharge, from January 2015. The general binding rules set out the conditions that septic tanks and sewage treatment plants need to meet in order to be used without an environmental permit.

Further information on the new approach to how we will regulate small sewage discharges is available on

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