Changes to EA permit fees in England

2nd May 2018

The Environment Agency in England has been required by the Government to cover its own costs for assessing and issuing new permits to discharge treated sewage to ground via a drainage field or to surface water. It previously covered some of its own costs and received grant finance from central government general taxation to cover the rest.

The new charges came into force on 1 April 2018 and are set out below, but remember this first of all: if you can comply with all of the General Binding Rules for Small Sewage Discharges then the EA does not require you to have or apply for a permit. You might want to print off the General Binding Rules, note on them how you comply and then keep them in a safe place; they could be very useful if ever you come to sell your property. If you find that you don’t comply for some reason, so much the better that you’ve found out sooner rather than later so that you can take steps to stop polluting your own back yard, or your neighbour's. If you have no idea what you’ve got or where it is then you should either go and look or, if you don’t fancy, seek some expert assistance. Out of your sight might be out of your mind but it might well be visible to others or, worse, killing the environment. Wastewater treatment systems that pollute are akin to throwing McDonalds’ and KFC scraps and wrappers out of your car window when you’re driving…

The permit application fee, i.e. what you have to pay the EA, depends on whether your site is a domestic household, charity or “another type of organisation” (see below).

If you’re discharging to ground via a drainage field from either a septic tank or a package sewage treatment plant, the application fee for domestic households and charities to discharge up to 5,000 litres (5 cubic metres) per day is £125.

(5000 litres at 150 litres/person/day at domestic rates (i.e. not hotels, campsites, guest houses, etc.) is 33 people. Since domestic houses with 33 occupants are rare, a more realistic scenario is 4 three-bedroom houses, classed as 5 people, or P, or PE, each = 20 people, and 1 four-bedroom house, classed as 6 people, and 1 five-bedroom house, classed as 7 people, to total 33 people. That figure can be reduced by a factor but it become more involved: contact us for details or see British Water Code of Practice Flows and Loads 4 Sizing Criteria, Treatment Capacity for Sewage Treatment Systems. If you’re a campsite then 5000 litres equates to 67 people; if you’re a 3 or 4 star hotel, it’s 10 double bedrooms. Again, contact us or see the British Water Code of Practice.)

The EA website goes on to say “The fees are different for other organisations” but doesn’t say how. We’re trying to find out but in the meantime while this caveat is here contact us for our opinion: the implication is that if you’re not a household or a charity, e.g. you’re a hotel, guest house, campsite, etc. then you’ll pay the following. Remember, we’re still talking about discharges to ground from septic tanks or package sewage treatment plants via a drainage field:

  • Up to 15,000 litres (15 cubic metres) £2,708
  • Over 15,000 litres (15 cubic metres) £5,699
  • Any volume that contains specific substances £6,052

Those same fees also apply if you’re in a group of private houses.

It’s unlikely that you’ll be discharging any substances that are classed as “specific” if your sewage is domestic in nature, i.e. replicates the content and proportions of household sewage but, if you’re really interested, follow this link to the gov.uk guidance on Surface water pollution risk assessment for your environmental permit: how to carry out a risk assessment if you're applying for a bespoke permit that includes discharging hazardous pollutants to surface water.

If you make jams and jellies, pickles and preserves, cheese, beer, sticky toffee pudding, etc., in anything other than domestic quantities and/or you sell as part of a business operation, it is not domestic sewage, it is trade effluent. Contact us for advice.

If you’re discharging to surface water from a package sewage treatment plant, the application fee for domestic households and charities to discharge up to 5,000 litres (5 cubic metres) per day is £125.

From 1 January 2020 it will be illegal to discharge any volume of sewage effluent to surface water from a septic tank and it is already illegal if it’s polluting the environment.

If you’re not a domestic household or a charity, or you’re part of a group of domestic households that in total produce more than 5000 litres of wastewater per day, then these are your permit application fees:

  • Up to 5,000 litres (5 cubic metres) £2,534
  • Between 5,000 litres (5 cubic metres) and 50,000 litres (50 cubic metres) £4,170
  • Over 50,000 litres (50 cubic metres) £7,649
  • Any volume that contains specific substances £7,649

For discharges volumes between 5000 litres and 20,000 litres it may be possible to apply for a “Standard Rules 2010 No. 3” permit for a fee of £813. These permits are for low risk discharge areas so if you’re in the National Parks of the Lake District, the Yorkshire Dales, the North Yorkshire Moors, Northumberland, the Peak District and further south, or there’s a RAMSAR or SAC site on your doorstep, don’t get your hopes up. We’ve never yet applied for one…

Depending on a combination of the sensitivity of the proposed point or discharge and the volume of treated sewage to be discharged, you may be required by the EA to undertake further risk assessments as part of the application process. These will be at your cost. The EA may be willing to do them for you, at a commercial rate.

The above fees cover application for new permits. There are also increases to the “annual subsistence fees” – the recurring annual charge made by the EA on behalf of government to cover the cost of monitoring a discharge to make sure it isn’t harming the environment. You may not see the EA officer but they know where the discharge points are…

If you’ve let your existing permit expire then you must apply for a new one and will be judged by the current rules and regulations regarding the quality of the treated sewage to be discharged – a very good reason not to let your older, perhaps more lenient permit, expire, and to keep your treatment system in good order to meet those discharge quality parameters so as not to invite closer inspection by the EA.

Annual fees for discharges that are not domestic households or charities, regardless of whether the discharge is to ground via a drainage field or to surface water are:

  • Up to 5,000 litres £251
  • Between 5,000 litres and 20,000 litres with operator self-monitoring £823
  • Between 20,000 litres and 50,000 litres with operator self-monitoring £1,310
  • Between 50,000 litres and 100,000 litres with operator self-monitoring £1,592
  • Between 100,000 litres and 500,000 litres with operator self-monitoring £2,461

Fees are obviously higher without operator self-monitoring.

  • Between 5,000 litres and 20,000 litres £890
  • Between 20,000 litres and 50,000 litres £1,580
  • Between 50,000 litres and 100,000 litres £1,861
  • Between 100,000 litres and 500,000 litres £3,269

If you do get a SR2010 No. 3 permit then your annual subsistence fee will be £890.

All EA fees are zero-rated for VAT.

If you want us to complete your application for you, submit itand then manage it on your behalf then we’d be happy to do that for you: call us to talk it through.

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