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Sewage treatment options

It’s true that building drainage regulations say that foul drainage must be connected to a public sewer unless this isn’t a viable option. However, there are some alternative sewage treatments that can be considered instead. We’re going to run through these other available options. They can be divided into three categories: septic tanks, cesspools and package sewage treatment plants.

You’ll be responsible for assessing what your needs are. There are all sorts of solutions for various circumstances but hopefully, we’ll be able to shed some light on these different factors for you to consider them individually.

Septic tanks

Septic tanks are usually found underground, but unlike cesspools, they are split into multiple chambers that allow them to settle the solids out of the sewage, where the septic outflow is discharged into a soak away drainage field. The first chamber is where the primary treatment (separation of solids and liquids by gravity) takes place. As sewage flows into the tank, the heavier solid ‘sludge’ sinks to the bottom and the lighter solids, oils and grease (referred to as scum) float to the surface. Septic tanks used to be the traditional means of sewage disposal in rural areas but there are now tighter rules and regulations in place. They may be a useful and appropriate solution for small developments or single domestic houses, as often in these cases there will be enough porosity in the ground to permit soak away.


Like septic tanks, these are also usually found underground. Often referred to as a cesspit, and actually, for the most part, involve no sewage treatment at all. They are basically an underground sewage holding tank with only an inlet, no outlet. The way that the system works is by sewage flowing into the cesspool and it is then stored until it can be emptied. Cesspools are often installed on sites where the ground is unsuitable for the waste to soak into the ground, as well as sites that are close to drinking water supplies and Sites of Specific Scientific Interest (SSSIs). Cesspools are, more often than not, considered a last resort. They can be expensive to run and difficult to get the go-ahead from the council in many instances.

Package sewage treatment plants

If you’re wanting to opt for a more sophisticated alternative to a septic tank, a sewage treatment plant might be a good way to go. Although there are a number of different types on the market, they all follow roughly the same principles. The main difference between a septic tank and a package sewage treatment plant is that the latter enables both primary and secondary treatment to occur, by working to create an environment that encourages the growth of bacteria which helps to break down sewage into non-polluting end products and materials. This option requires an electricity supply as air will have to be artificially introduced into the environment. Package sewage treatment plants are suitable for a lot of sites, from larger developments and commercial properties to smaller, single domestic housing.

As we’ve given detail of here, pretty much all of the sewage treatment options have their drawbacks, whether that be because of permit restrictions, cost or other difficulties. You’ll have to ascertain what is going to work best for you and your situation, so make sure that you do your research and find out more about each option. For most, in the absence of mains sewer access, the best sewage treatment is the package sewage treatment plant.

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