New rules come into force in 2020 and it’s worth taking expert advice to stay on the right side of the law.

If your property’s septic tank discharges to a watercourse, not a soakaway or drainage field, you must replace or upgrade the system by January 1, 2020 – or before that date if you are selling your property.

Given what goes into a septic tank, it’s understandable why the Environment Agency is keen to make sure that it stays in the tank, instead of floating down the local stream. There are many rules and regulations about septic tanks – from where you can put them, to where the water that leaves the tank can go.  Some are best practice guidelines, but others are legislation, and you ignore them at your peril.

The background: originally you could discharge the separated waste water from the septic tank through one of two ways:

  • To a drainage field or soakaway system – here, the waste water percolates through holes or slots into the pipework, into the surrounding sub-soils. This provides a form of treatment of the water, and it allows the waste water to disperse safely without causing pollution.
  • To a watercourse – the waste water would flow through a sealed pipe straight to a local watercourse such as a stream or a river.

So, what’s changed? Now you can no longer discharge to a watercourse directly.  The reason for this is because the quality of the waste water is no longer considered clean enough to flow straight into local watercourses without causing pollution.

Now, this isn’t an entirely new rule.  For some years now, property owners have not been allowed to install a new septic tank which discharges to a watercourse.  However, if your property already had a septic tank discharging to a watercourse, unless the EA identified that it was causing pollution, you were able to carry on.

But from 2020 this changes, so what are your options?

There are two main ways in which you can comply with the new regulations:

  1. Swap your septic tank for a sewage treatment plant. Sewage treatment plants produce a cleaner form of waste water, and it’s considered clean enough to discharge straight to a watercourse


  1. Install a drainage field or soakaway system. This will take the waste water from your septic tank, and disperse it safely into the ground without causing pollution.

You have plenty of time to make the switch, and to make a positive impact on the environment. We all have a responsibility to improve the water quality in our local streams and rivers. And Kingmoor Consulting are here to help you.

We are offering an initial low-cost appraisal for properties affected by these changes.   A site visit, an assessment of the options and recommendations to how compliance can be achieved.  If further work is needed, then we would issue costs for this work, and recommend local contractors to undertake the works.

We want to work with you to help you stay within the law, and we want to work with you to help improve our local environment. Call us or email for further information.

Kingmoor Consulting specialises in civil and structural engineering and geotechnical related services across Cumbria and Southern Scotland. Working with domestic and commercial clients, Kingmoor has delivered a range of diverse and challenging projects from domestic properties to energy infrastructure schemes. The company thrives on working on projects that demand the highest possible standards of design and innovative solutions.