General Binding Rules

Everything you need to know

What Are the General Binding Rules?

Revised regulations for small sewage discharges from septic tanks became effective from 1 January 2015. Systems installed and operational prior to 31 December 2014 are categorized as ‘existing discharges’.

Those installed and functioning post this date are identified as ‘new discharges’.

The General Binding Rules (GBRs) are a set of regulations established by various countries to provide guidance and standards for the management and disposal of waste.

These rules are designed to ensure the proper and safe handling of different types of waste, including domestic, commercial, and industrial waste.

The GBRs outline the responsibilities of waste producers, carriers, and disposal sites, and aim to minimize the potential harm to the environment and human health.

By providing a clear framework for waste management, the GBRs play a crucial role in promoting sustainable and responsible waste practices. In this article, we will delve into the definition of General Binding Rules and explore their significance in waste management.

How do the general binding rules relate to septic tanks?

The General Binding Rules (GBRs) are a set of regulations in the UK that govern the discharge of domestic sewage, including from septic tanks, to protect water quality. These rules apply to small sewage discharges (SSDs) from septic tanks and other sewage treatment plants to the ground or surface water. Here’s a summary of how these rules apply to septic tanks:

  • Discharge Limits: The GBRs typically apply to discharges of less than 2,000 litres of treated sewage per day. For discharges larger than this, an environmental permit is required.
  • Location Restrictions: Discharges must not be into a groundwater source protection zone 1 or to a borehole, well, or spring that supplies drinking water.
  • Maintenance and Efficiency: Septic tanks must be maintained properly and in good working order to prevent pollution. Regular emptying and inspections are necessary.
  • No Pollutants: The discharge must not cause pollution of surface water or groundwater. This means the effluent must be treated adequately before it’s released.
  • Prohibited Discharges: Direct discharges of untreated sewage from septic tanks to surface water are not allowed. Tanks discharging directly to surface water must be replaced or upgraded with a sewage treatment plant that meets the required standards, typically involving secondary treatment or better.
  • Conformance to Standards: New or replaced septic tanks and their associated drainage fields must comply with the relevant British Standards in place at the time of installation.
  • Registration and Permits: In some cases, homeowners might need to register their septic tank with the Environment Agency or obtain a permit, especially if the discharge is to surface water or in a sensitive area.
  • Property Sale: When selling a property with a septic tank, the owner must inform the buyer about the sewage treatment system and its maintenance requirements.

It’s important for homeowners with septic tanks to be aware of and comply with these rules to avoid penalties and ensure their systems do not harm the environment. For specific guidance or if in doubt, it’s recommended to consult the Environment Agency or a qualified professional.

When do the general binding rules apply?

The General Binding Rules (GBRs) apply in specific contexts, particularly regarding the discharge of domestic sewage from small sewage treatment plants, including septic tanks, in the UK. Here are the key circumstances when the GBRs are relevant:

  • For New and Existing Installations: The GBRs apply to both new installations and existing sewage treatment systems. They set the standards and requirements that these systems must meet to be compliant.
  • When Discharging to Surface Water or Ground: The rules are applicable when sewage is discharged either to surface water (like rivers and streams) or to the ground via a drainage field.
  • During Property Sales: When selling a property that has a septic tank or sewage treatment plant, the GBRs need to be considered. The seller must inform the buyer about the sewage system and its compliance with the rules.
  • Upon Changes or Upgrades: If you are planning to install a new system, replace, or upgrade an existing one, the GBRs guide what systems are permissible and the standards they must meet.
  • Following Environmental Concerns: If a sewage discharge is causing pollution or environmental damage, the GBRs outline the necessary actions and standards to rectify the situation.
  • Regular Maintenance and Inspections: Owners of septic tanks and sewage treatment plants must adhere to the GBRs in terms of maintenance, inspections, and proper functioning to prevent pollution.
  • In Sensitive Areas: Special attention to the GBRs is required in environmentally sensitive areas, such as near drinking water sources or in designated conservation areas.

It’s crucial for anyone owning or operating a small sewage treatment system to be familiar with these rules, as non-compliance can lead to environmental harm and potential legal repercussions. If there’s any uncertainty about the rules or their application, consulting the Environment Agency or a professional in sewage treatment systems is advisable.

Do the general binding rules impact tank size?

Your septic tank or sewage treatment plant needs to be adequately sized and correctly installed:

  • Sizing and Installation: It’s essential to ensure your septic tank or sewage treatment plant is appropriately sized for its intended use. For new installations or drainage fields, the installer must verify the correct size. You should also contact us for confirmation. In the case of a drainage field, all required soakaway tests must be conducted to determine the right size and design, with results submitted to Building Control. Note that Soakaway Crates are not permitted for any type of sewage effluent.
  • Adjustments for Increased Sewage Volume: If there’s an increase in the amount of sewage due to an extension or additional sewage source, your existing system may no longer be sufficient. The system’s capacity must be recalculated to handle the increased daily discharge volume. You might need to replace the system with a larger one or opt for a sewage treatment plant.
  • Permits for Larger Discharges: A permit from the Environment Agency is necessary if the new system discharges over 2 cubic metres (2,000 litres, or for more than 13 persons) per day into the ground. Under the EPP2 regulations, septic tanks are generally not approved for more than 15 persons.
  • Installation Standards: Your septic tank must be installed following the manufacturer’s Installation Specifications, and the drainage field should comply with BS6297:2007.
Do the rules impact maintenance, repair and emptying?

Yes.  They apply in the following areas:

  • Sludge Removal: Regular removal of settled sludge from the septic tank is crucial before it exceeds the tank’s capacity, affecting its functionality. Typically, this means annual emptying, or as per the manufacturer’s guidelines for larger tanks.
  • Using Registered Waste Carriers: The company employed for tank emptying should be a registered waste carrier. You should ask for a copy of their waste carrier certificate, as this is your responsibility.

Repair and Replacement:

  • Identifying Faults: If your septic tank has issues like cracked pipes, leaks, blockages, drainage field problems (e.g., backing up, soggy ground, pooling water), or odors, it needs repair or replacement.
  • Qualified Personnel for Repairs: Any remedial work should be carried out by a qualified professional, such as those listed by British Water as accredited service engineers.

Your Wastewater Treatment System Must Meet the Required Standard at Installation

 The installation of your septic tank or sewage treatment plant must adhere to the British Standard applicable at the time of its installation. Here are the current standards:

  • Septic tanks installed after 2014 must have a BS EN 12566-1 certificate. Installation of new septic tanks without this certification is not permitted.
  • Drainage fields installed after 2006 must comply with BS 6297:2007. No alternative effluent disposal methods are accepted.

Your septic tank aligns with the post-2014 British Standard if it:

  • Carries a CE marking.
  • Comes with documentation including a British Standard Certificate of Compliance.
  • Is listed in British Water’s approved equipment for BS EN 12566-1.

For septic tanks installed between 1983 and 2014, compliance with ‘BS6297 1983 Design and Installation of small-scale sewage systems’ is required.

If installed before 1983, there were no British Standards in place at that time, so your tank is exempt from these specifications.

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If you are thinking of buying a new home then it is advisable to get a Home Buyers Septic Survey completed to avoid or be aware of any costs that may be coming up. We can advise on the condition of the tank and any pipework.

General Binding Rules

If you own, live in, or are building a property off the mains sewage network it’s important you’re aware of changing legislation around septic tanks.

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General Binding Rules