Take command of septic tanks

By January 2020, septic tank installations must be upgraded in line with new regulations. Here, Ann Boardman of Saniflo UK offers some tips to specifiers on how to prepare for the changes

Septic tanks are found all over the UK, mostly in rural areas, and provide a relatively hassle-free solution to disposal of waste water and sewage where there is no mains drainage. The key to an effective septic tank is regular emptying and maintenance, and they can pose some problems, such as polluting watercourses. Therefore, new rules banning the direct drainage of septic tanks into local watercourses will come into affect from 1 January 2020. In light of these changes, on 1 January 2015 regulations came into force in England and Wales creating the ‘General Binding Rules’ (GBRs) for septic tanks or small sewage treatment plants for domestic use, specifying that some owners of septic tanks must upgrade their systems during the next two years. Septic tank systems can be replaced in a number of ways. One way is to simply connect to a mains sewer, and if that’s not feasible, there are other possibilities. For example, a drainage field, or infiltration system, so that the septic tank discharges into the ground; or alternatively the existing septic tank could be replaced with a small sewage treatment plant. In exceptional circumstances, property owners can request a permit to allow discharge to surface water. A other way is to use a septic tank conversion unit to upgrade an existing surface water discharging septic tank, however a permit is required for this and evidence must be provided that it will treat to the equivalent standard as a sewage treatment plant.

Underground pumping stations

A simple solution is to install an underground pumping station. These are available in different sizes to suit domestic and commercial properties, and come with blades for macerating waste and even without blades – featuring specialist ‘Vortex’ technology on some models. Smaller models tend to feature a single grinder pump, with float activation and robust cutting blades to prevent clogging. They come with an automatic 1500 watt motor that is both powerful and quiet for unobtrusive operation and they help to discharge the waste up to a maximum height of 14 m or horizontally along 110 m or a lesser combination of both. Larger pumping stations feature dual motors and are designed to work with a single dwelling with multiple storeys or multiple smaller types of accommodation, such as student accommodation and holiday pods. They contain two separate, load balanced pumps with high performance macerating systems that operate alternately for even wear and to provide a reliable, fail safe operation. Look for models that, in the event of overload, allow both motors to run simultaneously, or in the unlikely event of a motor fail, models where the other motor will take over. Some products offer a high capacity 500 litre tank with multiple connections to take waste from bathrooms, kitchens and utility rooms in industrial or large domestic buildings. Blade-free models allow for a clear passage of 50 mm and high flows, with no need to macerate. It’s a system preferred by some who believe it can eliminate clogging issues from prohibited items being flushed away. In reality the performance of both bladed and vortex pumps is the same. However, peace of mind for customers managing public spaces is important – clogging can lead to unwanted downtime and associated maintenance costs. While both products are equally efficient at discharging waste, it is personal preference as to which system is chosen. For industrial applications, choose models that provide even greater performance that come supplied with a smart monitoring system complete with remote alarm unit. Other necessary requirements of your chosen solution include meeting the relevant British Standard when installed or have a CE mark. If installed pre-1983, this requirement does not need to be met. Your chosen solution must have sufficient capacity, be installed in line with the manufacturer’s specifications and be maintained at least once a year or in line with the manufacturer’s specifications. In addition, the sewage release must be below the ‘mean low water spring mark if in a tidal area. In all cases, your chosen solution must be repaired or replaced by a competent person if not in good working order.

Ann Boardman is head of marketing and product management for Saniflo UK