Environmental Pollution

Do you have a septic tank or package sewage treatment plant?

If the answer is yes, then the Environment Agency needs your help to improve the water quality in the rivers and Broads near your Norfolk home.

The water from Barnham Broom drains eventually to the River Tiffey or River Yare. All the little pollutions from villages along this river are adding together to affect the rivers and then the Yare Broads and Marshes near Surlingham and Rockland, which are Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs). These special areas for wildlife, and the rivers that lead to them, need low nutrients to support the full range of wildlife.
Nutrients (particularly phosphates) can come from several sources including septic tanks and package treatment plants.

How can you reduce the phosphate coming out of your septic tank or package treatment plant?

1. Have your tank emptied regularly (at least once a year) to avoid a build up of sludge.
A proportion of phosphate settles out into the sludge. If this sludge is not removed then the volume of the tank is reduced, therefore, more untreated sewage will pass out into the soakaway, carrying phosphate and solids with it. Solids in a soakaway can also cause blockages which are expensive to fix.
When choosing a de-sludging contractor, please ensure that they will dispose of the sludge responsibly and safely, preferably to the nearest sewage treatment works.

2. Check that your septic tank is not connected into the watercourse.
Septic tanks do not clean the sewage sufficiently for it to directly enter a watercourse. If your tank pipes water straight to a watercourse, please consult a drainage expert to stop this. You would be breaking the law if you allow this situation to continue. One symptom of septic tank liquid entering a watercourse is smelly black/grey strands of ‘sewage fungus’ in the water.

3. Choose environmentally friendly detergent brands with no phosphate at all.
They’re out there on the shelves if you look for them. Watch for the word PHOSPHATE on the side of each packet. Phosphate is sometimes called sodium tripolyphosphate (STPP). Aim for less than 5% if you can.

4. Use less detergent.
Reducing the amount going into the system will reduce the amount coming out. Even if you do use detergents with phosphate in them, you can still help the environment by using the minimum amount recommended on the pack, and of course still get good results.

5. Buy laundry liquids or powders instead of tablets.
Laundry liquids tend to contain less phosphate than laundry tablets.

6. Minimise bleach and disinfectant use.
Both septic tanks and package treatment plants are biological systems that rely on micro-organisms. Using too much bleach or other powerful cleaning agents can kill these micro-organisms.

7. Keep roof water out of your sewerage system
Rainwater from the roof is clean and doesn’t need treatment. If large volumes of rainwater are put into septic tanks they can wash out solids into the soakaway. Roof water should be discharged to a separate soakaway or to a watercourse.

8. Do not put solid items such as nappies and sanitary items down the sewerage system.
They often block the system, leading to sewage overflowing into gardens and bad smells! Bag it and bin it!

If you would like to find out more information about sewage systems is available from the Environment Agency website or by contacting us on 03708 506506, Mon-Fri 8-6. Calls to 03 numbers cost the same as calls to standard geographic numbers (i.e. numbers beginning with 01 or 02).

email enquiries@environment–agency.gov.uk
or visit our website www.environment–agency.gov.uk

If each household does a bit, we can make a big difference to the amount of nutrient affecting our rivers and Broads.

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