Hannah Maynard, graduate surveyor with H&H Land and Estates, says people living in a rural property with a septic tank to deal wastewater and sewage must understand their responsibilities.

GUIDANCE from the Environment Agency, which regulates discharges from small septic tanks, has been updated to remove the deadline of January 1, 2020, for replacement of some systems.

New rules were introduced in 2015, which required some property owners to upgrade their systems before this date or before selling a property, whichever came first. The guidance states that if your septic tank discharges directly to a watercourse that is a soakaway, borehole or well, you will need to do one of the following as soon as possible:

a connect to mains sewer or

b install a drainage field (also known as an infiltration system) so the septic tank can discharge to ground instead or

c replace your septic tank with a small sewage treatment plant.

This new guidance, which came into effect on October 25, 2019, has removed this obligation to meet with the compliance by the published date, however it has not removed the obligation altogether, instead it states: "You must have plans in place to carry out this work within a reasonable timescale, typically 12 months."

Countryside properties are most likely to be affected by this guidance and although the deadline of January 1, 2020 has been removed, it is still important to understand your obligations for water waste and sewage treatment.

We would therefore encourage affected land and property owners to take the time to review the information on the Government's website and, if you are in any doubt, to seek further advice. The Environment Agency is the regulating body for England that exists to protect and enhance the UK's environment. It is a non-departmental body, sponsored by the Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs.

It has published further information on its website at www.gov.uk/guidance/general-binding-rules-small-sewage-discharge-to-a-surface-water.