What is a Septic Tank?

If you live in a part of the UK without access to a mains sewer system, understanding septic tanks becomes essential. In this blog post, we’ll cover everything you need to know about septic tanks: installation, septic tank regulations, septic tank maintenance, how to spot problems, and why you should get a pre-purchase survey before buying a property with a septic tank.

What is a septic tank and how does it work?

A septic tank acts as an independent waste treatment unit for properties not linked to sewage lines. They are mostly found in rural and suburban areas, and function as an underground sedimentation tank where raw wastewater from bathrooms, kitchens and laundry undergoes partial treatment via natural processes and biological decomposition. A septic tank allows your home to use water facilities as normal, just as it would if it were linked to a traditional sewage system maintained by a local water company. The difference being, you as the homeowner are responsible for the the effect your system has on the local enviroment, and as such are responsible for its maintenance and functionailty.

How does a septic tank work?

1. Water from your kitchen, bathroom, and other areas travels through a single pipe into your septic tank.

2. Underground, the tank holds the wastewater. It separates solids that sink to the bottom and oils and grease that float to the top.

3. Once separated, the liquid wastewater (effluent) leaves the tank and goes into the drain field. (The drain field is a system of downward sloped pipes that originate from your tank, featured with a porous material, such as gravel to prevent runoff).

4. Pipes then spread the effluent over the porous surfaces, allowing it to filter through the soil where the soil naturally treats and disperses the wastewater.

Maintenance and septic tank emptying  

If you are experiencing things like, slow drains, bad smells, or extra-green patches in your garden, it may mean there is an issue with your septic tank. Dealing with these signs quickly can prevent bigger and more costly issues happening. The best way to do this is by having regular check-ups from professionals.

Maintaining your system isn’t just about avoiding costly repairs, it is also about ensuring a healthy environment. Regular pumping and emptying helps prevent sludge build-up. If you allow this build-up to occur, it can lead to foul smells, blockages, leaks, expensive damage and contamination. However, with proper care you can avoid major issues and extend the time between emptying.

Regular maintenance doesn’t have to be complicated; it can be as simple as adding bacteria monthly and checking sludge levels every six months.

How much does a septic tank cost?

Expenses associated with septic tanks can vary greatly depending on the tanks size, system complexity, soil conditions, location and local regulations. Homeowners should carefully plan their budget, considering not only the initial installation costs but also ongoing maintenance expenses.

If you are thinking of having a new tank installed, or are looking to replace an old system, we can provide you with a no-obligation quote. We are also happy to provide advice on regular maintenance following installation.

Surveys and assessments

When maintaining your properties sewage system, surveys and CCTV inspections become an important tool to ensure everything runs smoothly.

A survey involves a detailed examination by trained drainage specialists who thoroughly assess the condition and functionality of your system. This will provide valuable insights into the systems current state, functionality, as well as highlight any existing issues that may require attention.

The CCTV inspection will look into the inner workings of your system and associated pipes and components. These inspections utilise specialised cameras to provide a detailed visual assessment without the need for excavation. By inspecting the interior of the tank and pipes, all potential issues can be identified including damage, leaks, blockages and anything impacting the systems overall performance.

These assessments and surveys are not only essential for identifying any existing problems with your system but also for ensuring compliance with current septic tank regulations. By conducting regular surveys, you can maintain an efficient and reliable sewage system, and prevent costly repairs, with new septic tanks often costing thousands of pounds.

UK Septic tank regulations: 2023

To ensure your septic system meets legal requirements in the UK there are a few keys rules to follow regarding its size, location, sewage treatment and maintenance. We advise contacting your local authority for their specific guidance on these areas, such as BCP Council for the Bournemouth and Poole area.

From January 1st, 2023, new regulations mean you can no longer install a septic tank that discharges into surface water. For example, into a stream, ditch, or river. If you already have one on your property, especially if you are looking to sell your home, you may need to look at upgrading or replacing it. When selling a property with a septic tank you must also inform any potential buyers about the tanks condition and history, which can be done through a pre-purchase survey. This will confirm that your system meets the current ‘general binding rules’ which not only ensures the systems efficiency but also plays a part in safeguarding the environment and public health.

If you are considering installing a new domestic discharge, and it is not reasonable to connect to a mains sewer, you will have to install a septic tank and will need to obtain building regulations approval for this, and in some cases you may also need planning permission.

All discharges from septic systems should be registered with the Environment Agency, whether new or existing.

Booking your pre-purchase survey

Before purchasing a property with a septic system, it’s highly advisable to invest in a pre-purchase inspection, not just for your septic tank, but your entire drainage system. Our inspections ensure the integrity and functionality of the current system, identifying any potential issues that may require immediate attention and incur additional costs, that as a buyer, you need to know.

Call 0800 861 1900 to arrange your pre-purchase survey.

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