Are septic tank soakaway crates legal in the UK

According to the UK Sepa website, a soakaway is designed for “wastewater from a soakaway or small sewage treatment plant.” However, due to the nature of a septic tank, no chemicals can be released into a soakaway, and it may take several months for the untreated wastewater within the soakaway to become fully treated.

Soakaways are often used in areas with no mains drainage or where it would incur high costs to connect to one. In such instances, houses use septic tanks. A septic tank works by allowing wastewater from showers and baths and sinks and toilets within a house to drain away into an underground concrete box with perforated walls called ‘soakaways’ that allow this waste to be broken down and treated by naturally occurring bacteria. As with a soakaway, no chemicals can be released into the septic tank, and it may take several months for the wastewater within the septic tank to become fully treated.



Although both soakaways and septic tanks are used in locations with no mains drainage, this does not mean that they are indistinguishable from one another. In such cases, if a soakaway were to be drained of its contents using pumping equipment by someone other than a registered waste carrier or an authorized person, then that would constitute unauthorized treatment of controlled waste under section 33 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 (EPA 1990).
If convicted under section 33 of EPA 1990, an individual faces an unlimited fine and/or up to 12 months in prison. However, if the court is satisfied that no offense was committed intentionally, they may impose a fine of £50,000 instead under section 34(1) EPA 1990.

If an individual were to illegally introduce waste into the soakaway without the necessary authority by unblocking it and allowing all of its contents to drain away (or be pumped out), they would have unlawfully deposited controlled waste on land without a waste management license contrary to Regulation 33(1)(a)(ii) of The Controlled Waste (England and Wales) Regulations 2012.



This would constitute an offense against section 33(2) EPA 1990; if convicted, an individual faces an unlimited fine and/or up to five years in prison. However, if the court is satisfied that no offense was committed intentionally, they may impose a fine of £50,000 instead.

If an individual were to pump out and take away the contents of a soakaway without having first notified Sepa and obtained the necessary authority, they would be taking away other people’s waste contrary to Regulation 33(1)(b) The Controlled Waste (England and Wales) Regulations 2012.

This would constitute an offense against section 33(2) EPA 1990; if convicted, an individual faces an unlimited fine and/or up to five years in prison. However, if the court is satisfied that no offense was committed intentionally, they may impose a fine of £50,000 instead.

If someone installs or fails to remove a soakaway while they are cleaning or maintaining a septic tank within 200 meters of it, this will constitute an offense against section 33(3) EPA 1990; if convicted, an individual faces an unlimited fine and/or up to five years in prison.

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