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Septic Tank Frequently Asked Questions

We often receive the same questions over and over again. This page is dedicated to answering those questions.  It's a great opportunity to provide information about the services we provide.

Is a local Farmer allowed to Empty my Septic Tank? 

The simple answer is NO, as it is highly unlikely that he complies with the regulations below:

The Farmer MUST be a Registered Waste Carrier

Untreated sewage treatment plant or septic tank waste has been banned from being spread on all agricultural land since 2005.

Farmers now only receive payments under the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) if they achieve and maintain certain standards on:

  • environmental and public health

  • animal and plant health

  • animal welfare

These standards are known as 'cross compliance'.

If you supply or spread sludge to agricultural land, you must meet the requirements of the Sludge (Use in Agriculture) Regulations. You must comply with these regulations in order to meet the requirements of the cross compliance rules of the single farm payment scheme

You must only use sewage sludge that has been tested according to the Sludge Regulations. You must check that you do not exceed the limit on the average annual rate of addition of metals in the sludge.

You must not spread sewage sludge on a field unless you have tested the soil according to the Sludge Regulations. This includes checking that the limit on the concentration of metals in the soil will not be exceeded by spreading the sludge.

You must not spread sludge on land that has a soil pH of less than five.

You must not use sewage sludge or septic tank sludge:

  • when fruit, other than fruit trees, or vegetables are growing or are to be harvested in the soil

  • without taking the nutrient needs of the plants into account

  • if it will damage the quality of the soil, surface water or groundwater.

The farmer must provide the septic tank owner with information of any past sludge use from a different source. This should include details of where, when and how much sewage sludge was used and who supplied it. 

After sewage sludge or septic tank sludge has been applied, you must not:

  • graze animals or harvest forage crops for at least three weeks

  • harvest fruit and vegetable crops that are grown in direct contact with the soil and that are normally eaten raw for at least 10 months.

After sewage sludge or septic tank sludge has been applied, you must:

  • Work untreated sludge into the soil as soon as possible. Untreated sludge is sludge or septic tank sludge that has not undergone biological, chemical or heat treatment, long-term storage or a process to reduce its fermentability and health hazards.

  • Inform your environmental regulator immediately if sewage sludge enters a watercourse.

Septic tank emptying should only be carried out by a Licensed Contractor.

Any contravention of any of the above regulations breaks the rules of cross compliance and risks the Single Farm Payment.


How often should I have my Septic Tank Emptied?

As a general rule, you should ideally empty out your septic tank once every two to five years.

There are some key factors which influence this though.

1. Size of your tank - They can only hold a finite amount of waste.

2.Usage - How many people live in your house

3. What you flush - this may cause blockages that need to be addressed.


How do I take care of my Septic Tank 

If you have just purchased a property which has a septic tank foul water system, there are many things that you can do to help prolong the life of the soakaway drainfield.

Divert Rainwater From the Septic Drainfield

  • A saturated drainfield can't absorb enough septic effluent.

  • Plan landscaping, roof gutters and surface drains so that excess water is diverted away from the soakaway area.

Don't Overload the Septic Tank and Drainfield

The amount of water used in the home has increased dramatically over the last 20 years.  If your septic tank pre-dates the current regulations, it is probably too small and struggling to cope with current flow rates.  There are things you can do to reduce this problem:-

  • Repair leaking and dripping taps and toilets.  Dual Flush toilets often leak at the valve after a period of time and need replacing. 

  • Use aerators on taps and low-flow showers to help lower water consumption.  Power showers just increase the volume of water used. 

  • Change to a low water consumption washing machine and reduce water levels for small laundry loads.

  • Don't run a half-empty dishwasher.

  • Toilets account for over 35% of all the water used in the home, water which overloads your soakaway.  Fit dual flush toilets, use a 'Hippo'  or, even better, convert your existing toilet to an 'eco' toilet with an INTERFLUSH conversion kit to reduce the amount of water needed to flush to the absolute minimum.   The Interflush Is a kit which fits on top of your WC siphon and connects to the front mounted flush handle.The toilet only flushes when the handle is held down, releasing the handle stops the flush (when pan is clear). It only uses the exact amount of water required, any less and the toilet would need flushing again. That is why nothing can flush a toilet with less water.   

 Keep Trees Away from the Septic System

  • Discourage root damage by keeping trees at least 30 metres away from the soakaway.

  • Trees with very aggressive roots, such as willows and poplars, should be even farther away from the system.

Don't use your toilet and sink as a rubbish bin

  • Never flush cat litter, disposable nappies, pantie liners, tampons, paper towels, facial tissues, coffee grounds, or cigarette ends down the toilet   They'll clog your septic tank in less time than you might imagine.

  • Don't install a waste disposal unit as these can double the amount of solids going into the septic tank.

Be sensible with cleaning and disinfection products and what you pour down the sink

  • Overuse of Anti-Bacterials, disinfectants and heavy cleaners will kill the beneficial bacteria in the septic tank which digest your solids.

  • Don't use anti-bacterial hand wash products as you are poisioning your septic tank bacteria with every wash.

  • Do Not Pour Grease or oil Down the sink.  Wipe greasy dishes with paper towels before washing.

  • Grease clogs the septic tank soakaway, and effectively 'waterproofs' it, making it impossible for soil to absorb liquids. If that happens you'll need a new soakaway.

  • White Spirit, varnish, paint thinners, motor oils, petrol and other similar chemicals will ruin your septic system and are not easily broken down by soil bacteria.  They will pollute groundwater.

  • Condensate from Condensing Boilers is very acidic and must not go into the foul drains

Protect your soakaway

  • Do not drive over the soakaway, build a structure on top of it, or cover it with concrete or Tarmac.  Gravel is OK, but only for foot traffic. 

  • Sow grass over the soakaway area, if possible, as grass takes up a lot of water.

Maintain your septic system

  • Solids must be pumped from the septic tank on an ANNUAL basis.  Ignore the ignorant who tell you that 'septic tanks never need emptying!  They only store 12 months worth of sludge and extending the 12 month emptying interval will ruin your soakaway! 

  • Never lift the lid of a septic tank yourself, particularly if you are alone!  The gases in the tank can overcome you very quickly and the bacteria are dangerous!  Sewage workers must have regular vaccinations, including Hepatitis, Tetanus and Diphtheria, to protect against them. 


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