Private sewage systems

Private sewage treatment plants (STP) (ie those not owned and maintained by Anglian Water), septic tanks and cesspools, along with any drains and sewers draining into them, are private systems and the responsibility of the owner of the property or properties that uses them.

If you experience any flooding externally or internally that involves the discharge of sewage we would advise that you first contact your local district council’s environmental health department or the Environment Agency who are responsible for such incidents.

You have a package sewage treatment plant and it is not functioning properly

The effluent produced by a STP should look clear. If it is not, there may well be a fault with the plant. Common faults include: pump or mechanical failure, internal blockages, build up of settled solids, too much flow. Should the plant not be working properly you are advised to seek the advice from a sewage treatment contractor.

Also, the effluent may not be getting away due to high water levels in the ground or watercourse. This may be due to lack of maintenance or a blockage in the watercourse. You may therefore need to take action to clear an obstruction and/or maintain the watercourse to enable the discharge of your plant.

The watercourse that you discharge into needs to be maintained

Firstly check whether you have riparian rights for the section of the watercourse into which you are discharging. This will indicate whether you have the ability to carry out works on the watercourse.

If you do not have riparian rights to carry out works on the watercourse and it is within an adjacent property owners land then you should seek the permission of the relevant landowner of the watercourse to carry out works on the watercourse.

If you are unsure as to whether you have riparian rights to carry out works then you should take independent legal advice to clarify your riparian rights and responsibilities.

The watercourse that you discharge into has been filled in and/or blocked

It may be that the relevant organisation could consider taking enforcement action in cases where the watercourse has been obstructed.

If your watercourse is part of a main river then you will need to contact the Environment Agency and not Norfolk County Council. Alternatively, if your watercourse falls within an Internal Drainage District then you will need to contact the Internal Drainage Board (IDB) responsible for that area and not Norfolk County Council. Find your local IDB.

Where there is an obstruction in a watercourse outside the control of Internal Drainage Boards or the Environment Agency, Norfolk County Council’s Flood and Water Management Team as Lead Local Flood Authority may consider action which could lead to a flood investigation or enforcement.

Further advice

For further information on sewage package treatment plants please contact the Environment Agency (03708 506506, Mon-Fri 8am-6pm). Please also see the relevant EA information and guidance which looks at registering, siting and discharging systems to surface waters in more detail.