The Environment Agency has announced two updates to the General Binding Rules covering small sewage discharges (SSDs). They affect owners of new septic tanks and sewage treatment plants; here Gilson Environmental Services, who can commission, install and maintain both types of systems, explain the additions in more detail.


The Existing Rules

The main set of General Binding Rules came into effect in January 2020. Although there are many aspects to them, the main change saw a tightening of the regulations relating discharges from septic tanks; owners were no longer allowed to discharge the effluent directly into nearby watercourses such as streams or rivers.

Either the tank needed to be replaced with a sewage treatment plant, or the effluent had to be discharged into a soakaway or drainage field.

For a full rundown of the 2020 rules, check out our previous blog post here.


The New Rules

As part of an ongoing bid to improve the nation’s water quality, the Agency has just added two more clauses to the existing rules. The additions are Rule 22 and 23 and are on the Government website; they were added in October 2023 and came into effect immediately.

Rule 22 states that ‘a new discharge shall not use the same outlet as any other discharge if the combined volume of those discharges would exceed the volumetric general binding rules thresholds for groundwater or surface water.’

What this new rule means is that you cannot share a discharge point (such as a soakaway or drainage field if you have a septic tank) with another system, if the combined output of wastewater from the various systems exceeds the daily discharge limits set in the existing General Binding Rules. This ‘other system’ could, for example, be a neighbour’s septic tank or treatment system.

The daily discharge limits are currently set at five cubic meters (m3) of treated wastewater for discharges to surface water and 2m3 of treated wastewater for ground discharges.

You may be able to apply to the Environment Agency for a B6.5 permit if you have a problem complying with the new rules; this permit increases the amount of wastewater you are allowed to discharge on a daily basis.

Rule 23 states that ‘a new discharge shall not be made to a discharge point within 50 metres of any other exempt groundwater activity or water discharge activity.’

Again, it may be possible to get an exemption by applying for a B6.5 permit from the Environment Agency. The Agency has said it will carry out an environmental risk assessment when it looks at any applications. You will still need an exemption even if the new combined volume of the all the systems (which are within 50m of each other) will still be less than the maximum daily discharge limits.


Who Does This Affect?

This only affects new commissions and installations, so if you currently share an outlet pipe or a drainage field with a neighbour (for instance), and your level of discharge is within the current limits, then you are not breaking any rules.

However, if you now need to replace your current septic tank or sewage treatment plant with another one then you may have to find a different discharge point, whether that’s into a local watercourse or into the ground. (The Government website states that Rules 22 and 23 only apply if your discharge started on or after 2 October 2023).


Septic Tank Installation in Ipswich from Gilson Environmental Services

If you think your septic tank or sewage treatment plant needs replacing, and are concerned about the new regulations, then don’t be – you can always contact Gilson Environmental Services and we will be able to explain what this means.

And if you are looking for sewage treatment plant installers in Suffolk and across East Anglia, then call us on 01473 741530. We aren’t tied to any particular manufacturer and will be able to offer a cost-effective solution which is tailored to your individual needs.

We enjoy excellent relationships with local planning authorities as well as the Environment Agency; and we are equally adept at large-scale commercial installations as well as smaller domestic ones. For more information about our off-mains drainage commissioning and installation services, follow this link.