Legislation & Law
New Sewage Regulations - EPP2 - Exemption - Permit
The New EPP2 Legislation Explained
By the 1st January, 2012, ALL discharges from septic tanks and sewage treatment plants will have to be registered with the Environment Agency under the EPP2 regulations. This applies to both new and existing systems, no matter how old they are.
Until recently, everyone who had a sewage treatment plant or septic tank that discharged to either ground or a watercourse, needed to have Consent to Discharge from the Environment Agency.
These rules changed on the 6th April 2010. The Consent to Discharge has been replaced by a Permit to Discharge under the Environmental Permitting Programme Second Phase (or EPP2).
However, as all sewage treatment plants for sale must have been tested and hold the EN 12566-3 2005 Certificate, an Exemption scheme has also been introduced, as these plants should not pose a pollution problem if properly used and they are maintained by a competent contractor . You can now register for an Exemption from a Permit to Discharge for:
- Sewage Treatment Plants discharging up to 5m3 per day or less into surface water (27 population equivalents)
- Septic Tanks / Sewage Treatment Plants discharging up to 2m3 per day or less into groundwater (11 population equivalent)
- For an approved sewage treatment plant - free of charge.
WAM UK has produced this guide to provide homeowners, builders and architects with an explanation of how the new system works and how to comply with it.
What is the EPP2?
The EPP2 is part of a continuing Government programme designed to improve the regulations and administrative costs concerning environmental protection and health issues which will help protect our environment.
The EPP2 forms part of the Environmental Permitting Regulations (EPR), a joint initiative between the Environment Agency, the Department for Energy and Climate Change, DEFRA and the Welsh Assembly.
Will the EPP2 affect me?
Any septic tank or sewage treatment plant installation is affected by the EPP2. You need a Discharge Permit but you may qualify to register for an exemption if your installation meets certain criteria. Please see Discharge Permit and Exemption Criteria and Application Form in out downloads. This criteria includes such things as the amount of discharge, the make of septic tank or treatment plant (only EN 12566-3 2005 Certified plants accepted), plant location, intended discharge point, installation and maintenance contract. See the list of certified sewage treatment plants
All installed products must be tested and approved to specific quality and performance standards.
In order to reduce administration costs, you must now apply for an exemption in the first instance using a form that you can fill in online at
Does EPP2 apply to all of the UK?
No. At the moment it only applies to England and Wales, though it is expected to apply to Scotland and Northern Ireland in the very near future.
What plant is affected by the EPP2?
The EPP2 applies to all sewage treatment plants and septic tanks.
The EPP2 also applies if you are replacing your septic tank or sewage plant. Exemption or a Permit must be obtained before discharge commences.
What if my system is bigger than this?
If you are discharging more than the amounts allowed for the Exemption, then you will need to apply for a “Discharge Permit”. See Discharge Permit and Exemption Criteria link above.
How much will it cost to register?
The exemption registration is free, provided that the plant or tank is only discharging small amounts (see Discharge Permit and Exemption Criteria link above) and on the approved EN 12566-3 tested list. If it is not, then you may have to apply for a Permit, which is not free and can cost up to £850.00
My tank been here a long time - Does it apply to me?
That depends on whether you have an existing Consent to Discharge or not. If you have, then you do not need to register under the EPP2. If you do not have an existing Consent to Discharge, then you have to apply for an EPP2 exemption or permit.
My new tank has not been installed yet. What should I do?
You should make sure that your system is the correct size and approved by the Environment Agency. Please see our list of approved all-in-one plants or contact WAM UK for verification
Will EPP2 tell me what specific product to install?
No, but you can see the list of package sewage treatment plants that are approved on this website.
Why are some products not on the approved EPP2 list?
Only septic tanks and package treatment plants which have been tested for 38 weeks at an EN Test Centre are approved. This test looks at performance, what level of maintenance is required, power consumption, structural integrity, water tightness and other factors. (Septic tank conversion units are not affected.)
This test results then gives the purchaser the facts about the plant and prevents manufacturers making false, undocumented claims about their plants.
The package systems that are approved for use under EPP2 (for an exemption from a permit to discharge) must have all undergone the EN-12566 testing procedure (for either Part 1 or Part 3).
Do all approved products achieve the same performance results?
No. All tanks and plants achieve differing levels of treatment and performance under different conditions. Also, some manufacturers ask for reduced loading for the test and the plants are only tested for 4 persons, not the 6 persons as are sold in the UK – So please beware!
How do I check that a product is approved for use?
The Environment Agency and British Water have published a list containing most of the certified systems available in the UK. Please see above.
HOWEVER, please note that the list does not disclose any details of the test results which differ vastly from one plant to another. The actual EN Test Certificate is not much better as it only gives a percentage reduction in the influent pollutants, NOT the actual test results in mg/litre, which is what you have to achieve.
For this reason, PLEASE INSIST ON A COPY OF THE TEST REPORT which gives the results in mg/litre for every test.
Example of a Certificate
Example of a Report
What should I look for in the test certificate?
Don't bother looking at the Test Certificate - ASK FOR THE TEST REPORT. The Certificate does not tell you how many times the plant FAILED the UK Standard that YOU have to achieve by LAW, but the Test Report shows the results of every weekly test over the 38 weeks in mg/litre.
There is no pass or fail level for the EN-12566 and not all plants which have the EN are on the approved list. Please see what is wrong with the EN 12566-3 test procedure as we believe it to be a badly designed, misleading test that needs to be re-drafted.
As an example, the BIOROCK achieved 99.3% reduction in suspended solids on the Test Certificate, but this does not tell you if it will achieve the mg/litre of suspended solids that is stated on your permit. When you look at the Test Report, you can see exactly how many mg/litre of suspended solids it produced for every test (it passed the UK Standard on every test). As a rule, do not accept plants that achieve less than 95% suspended solids reduction, as they have most likely failed the UK Standards on several test occasions.
Can I install any products that are on the list?
No. EPP2 includes both Part 1 (septic tanks) and Part 3 (underground package sewage treatment plants) of the EN-12566 Standard. In many situations a Septic Tank may not be acceptable.
You must ensure that the standard of treatment required by the Environment Agency, stated in mg/litre, is met by the plant performance results, which is another reason why you must demand the test REPORT, NOT the Certificate which will not tell you this vital information!
You must also ensure that the sewage treatment plant or septic tank is the correct size using the British Water 'Flows and Loads 3' data. Please contact us for sizing.
If my plant is EPP2 approved, do I still require planning permission?
Yes. Before installing a new sewage treatment system, you must contact the local authority to establish whether the location and installation needs additional planning or building controls.
You will also need Planning Permission if you are replacing an existing system.
How do I find out what my ground conditions are like?
A trial site assessment hole and percolation tests must be done before a soak away or drainage field is designed and installed. Septic tanks can only be discharged to drain fields and if the percolation tests fail or are poor, then a septic tank may not be an option for you.
What other rules must I follow?
You must also adhere to the legislation in Section H2 of the Building Regulations, regarding siting, depths, distances, etc. and the BS 6297 2007 drainage design standards.
If you are in an Inner Groundwater Source Protection Zone, then you will not be allowed a soak away at all, so a septic tank is also not an option. Please call us to check.
If you are within 30 metres of a mains sewer then you will have to prove that your system is a more sustainable option.
The Department of Trade and Rural Affairs (DETR) stated in DETR 03/99 circular the following:
"Planning Requirement in respect of the Use of Non-Mains Sewerage incorporating Septic Tanks in New Development
If, by taking into account the cost and/or practicability, it can be shown to the satisfaction of the local planning authority that connection to a public sewer is not feasible, a package sewage treatment plant incorporating a combination of treatment processes should be considered. The plant should offer full treatment (including secondary and if necessary tertiary treatment) with the final effluent discharge from it meeting the standard and conditions set by the Environment Agency where applicable."
The circular also states that only where it can be proved that a sewage treatment plant is not feasible should septic tanks be considered.
What happens if I don't comply?
If you install a sewage system that is not approved, without an exemption or permit, you are breaking the Law and risk the following:
Environmental Pollution potentially leading to imprisonment!
Building Regulation violations
Planning permission violations
Heavy fines and litigation in excess of £20,000 GBP
Can anyone install the unit?
It is not mandatory for a professional installer to install the plant, but EPP2 stipulates that industry best practice needs to be adhered to. EPP2 also states that manufacturer’s installation instructions must be followed and that specialist installation engineers should be employed.
No sewage treatment plant will work unless the installation is absolutely correct. We have seen some appalling installations which, in some cases, have had to be re-done at great expense. In some cases it is not possible to re-install the plant and a new one has to be purchased.
All manufacturers’ warranties are voided unless the plant is installed correctly.
WAM UK has a network of Accredited Installers throughout the UK.
What about maintenance?
All sewage system must be operated and maintained in accordance with the manufacturer’s maintenance manual.
EPP2 also recommends regular de-Sludging / emptying according to the manufacturers guidelines by licensed companies demonstrating competency and a duty of care with regard to final disposal of the sewage sludge.
EPP2 states that the systems must be regularly inspected and maintained by a competent wastewater professional (holding the industry training certification), even within the first year of service whilst the unit is under warranty. Servicing, emptying and maintenance records must be kept for a period of five years.
WAM UK service division provides service and maintenance packages to cover all types of domestic sewage, Municipal and Industrial wastewater treatment plants. Please contact us on 0845 0568777
I am buying a new house. How do I find out if the tank is EPP2 approved?
All properties connected to private sewage tanks must clearly display a sign that details the make and model of product installed. This is a Building Regulation requirement.
EPP2 also requires property owners to keep a five-year maintenance record for inspection on request by government agencies.
The Environment Agency's own database also has a record of all properties that have either an exemption or a permit, listed by address and twelve-figure map grid reference.
The Home Information Pack (HIP) should have the sewage systems details of make and model.
WAM UK can help you fill in all the forms and guide you through the maze of sewage regulations free of charge.
If your septic tank system malfuctions and discharges effluent (no matter how clean) to a watercourse you are committing an offence under Section 85 of theWater Resources Act 1991, rendering you liable on conviction in the magistrates' court to up to 3 months imprisonment or a fine not exceeding £20,000. On conviction at the Crown Court, you face to up to six months in jail and an unlimited fine.
You could apply to the Environment Agency for a Permit to Discharge, but Consent would not be given for septic effluent, only for effluent from a sewage treatment unit.
You also cannot discharge into a watercourse or ditch anything poisionous or injurous to fish under the Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries Act 1975. Septic Tank effluent is extremely poisionous to aquatic life.
If, as defined by the Act, the watercourse is a "main river" , the outfall structure may also require consentunder S.109 Water Resources Act 1991.
As the Environment Agency is consulted by the Local Planning Authority on ALL planning or Building Regulation applications, you cannot escape from their scrutiny. If your development is seen as a 'risk' to watercourses or groundwaters, the Environment Agency can issue a Prohibition Notice under Section 86 of the Water Resources Act 1991. This will prevent you from making ANY discharges at all and effectively ends all your property's sanitation.
Think very hard before installing a septic tank as sewage treatment units are always the better choice
The choice of sewage system and the obtaining of all permissions and Permits should be done very early in your projects development. Environment Agency Discharge Permit can take 4 months to obtain.
Some sites with clay soils and no access to a watercourse, prove very difficult, if not impossible to sustain any form of drainage or wastewater treatment at all, so it is vital that this area is addressed before purchase.
The Planning Authority consults with both the Environment Agency, or SEPA, Building Control and Environmental Health in order to determine whether your planning application can be passed or not. But BEWARE as some sites sold with planning permission have foul drainage as a RESERVED MATTER and it may not have been finalised.
The Environment Agency or SEPA is responsible for the quality of both groundwaters and wastercourses and you will need Consent to discharge from them for ANY drainage discharge you make from your sewage treatment system.
Building Control is responsible for ensuring that your site drainage and sewage system complies with section H of the building regulations. Download it from Links.
The NHBC etc.warranty is only given for the sewage system if it is designed and installed to their standards and some Mortgage providers will insist on the property having such a warranty. In any case, they will insist that the treatment system is adequate and sustainable.
You only install a sewage treatment system once - PLEASE DO IT RIGHT
If alternative evidence is to be provided, it must be agreed with the local Trading Standards Authority. BEWARE, as many plants sold in the UK have never been tested by anyone and do not work - we know, because we service them. They hide behind the fact that CE marking is not yet mandatory, but the fact is that they MUST have been independently tested by some recognised body to an agreed EQUAL or SUPERIOR test and many have not.