Septic Tank Rules & Regulations

The latest Rules for wastewater treatment plants in France, The Regulations for fosses septiques, the laws and rules

France is in a state of change regarding its wastewater treatment regulations. The last complete set of “rules” applied in France for septic tanks, fosse septics or fosses septiques were the normes DTU 64.1 which date from 1998 but that had originally been written some years earlier and explain the recommended manner to install your waste treatment paying no attention to whether it actually works. Since the introduction of the loi sur l’eau of December 2007 the DTU 64.1 only continues to apply to domestic sewage treatment installations of less than 20 persons. If your installation could be considered “collective” ie for multiple properties, “commercial” (such as gites, camping, B & B or a bar) or is for more than 20 person equivalent and if you have the experience to know which texts of the law to apply, you could now totally legally opt for Mini Wastewater Treatment Plants in France, Click here to find out more, or to get a quote for your larger sized wastewater treatment plants in France - click here.

There is only one current Law in France for wastewater treatment or fosses septiques that can incorporate a penalty or fine and that relates to you polluting. In our experience many of the sand filter systems and the compact fosse systems that comply with DTU 64.1 do not work to the required standard of the new European regulations that will be implemented. (These have been delayed again to December 2008). Therefore, you have a choice if you are replacing a fosse septique for a French property of under 20 inhabitants – either you install something at great expense that is practically obsolete, will probably smell and pollute or you can choose a CE certified mini wastewater treatment plant, specified correctly, and enjoy smell free, problem free and ecologically friendly domestic sewage treatment. To read a comparison of the different types of wastewater treatment plants available click here.

Some of the History behind the Fosse Septique and fosse septic regulations

All Mairies in France were obliged by law in 1992 to put an action plan into place for their communes for all wastewater treatment and to establish a complete list of all domestic septic tanks including an assessment of their condition by 2005. Unfortunately most Mairies were slow to react – perhaps because the implementation of the rules was bound to prove unpopular. Most Mairies decided to delegate their responsibility and appoint organizations such as the SPANC, SAUR, SIVOM etc to do this for them and as there were not enough suitably qualified individuals in France available to carry out this verification work, the whole administrative treadmill that the French love was swung into place. There are still many areas of France where the inspection and verification has not yet taken place, but then . . . .

What does the Fosse Inspection consist of in France?

It consists of a rudimentary inspection of your fosse septique to decide whether it was installed in a manner to comply with the ten year old regulations DTU 64.1 – you are charged for this – this is no comment on the condition or effectiveness of the septic tank installation and there is no quantitative assessment of its environmental impact i.e. no test that it actually works – the best you can say is that it assesses whether it may work . . . . .

What does a Positive Assessment tell me?

A Positive assessment just means that for the moment you will not be pursued to make changes to your wastewater treatment system in France – if you are buying a property in France, do NOT accept this certificate as proof that your fosse septique installation works. When was it installed? Who installed it? What guarantee does it have left? Has it been maintained? When was it last emptied? – without the correct answer to these and other questions, you are best advised to assume that your fosse septique will not give you the level of waste water treatment you are used to – be prepared for inconvenient blockages, a stench that ruins your BBQ, a ditch full of green slime, unexpected expense, nasty swampy corners of the garden you avoid etc. . . . . .

What is an “etude de sol”?

If you go to your Mairie to ask about your fosse septique installation project they will often suggest that the “procedure” is to go and get an “etude de sol” carried out by an Etude, or expert. To put it bluntly, this is their way of washing their hands of any responsibility regarding your new fosse septic installation in France. This will also cost you 4-500 euros unnecessarily! The etude then do their “etude de sol”, to establish the permeability and saturation levels of your soil - which you could carry out yourself with these instructions DIY etude de sol, soakaway calculations for France click here

After the etude de sol has been done, you are then supposed to get a registered artisan to install whatever the etude have recommended, which will comply with the outdated DTU’s. He will do this, should get an inspection giving you a “certificat de conformite” and should give you a ten year warranty. “Great, I am fully legal and covered for my wastewater treatment needs” you could think. However:

  1. If your system fails (which happens regularly with sand filters and zeolite type compact fosses) you go back to the installer
  2. He says that the sand filter or compact zeolite filter has failed but that he installed exactly what he was told and refers you to the SPANC
  3. The SPANC refer you to the legislation and the installer
  4. This time the installer refers you to the Etude
  5. They say the installation was “conforme” and refer you back to the Artisan
  6. He refers you to his insurance
  7. They refer you back to the SPANC and the Etude as the system is “conforme” and say all due diligence was exercised by the Artisan.
  8. You still have a stinking, polluting wastewater treatment system that doesn’t work – return to step 1 and start again.

If you install a CE certified domestic sewage treatment plant or mini wastewater treatment plant in France you do not need an etude de sol, are sure of the results, and can therefore save yourself 4-500 euros before you start – please take this into consideration when comparing costs. To get a quotation or “devis” for a CE certified wastewater treatment plant at your property in France, please click here.

What is the Fosse “Certificat de Conformité” used for?

Nothing, it simply confirms that you are creating work for future generations of fosse septique installers by installing treatment systems that are already out of date . . . . . (it is proposed that this certificate de conformité will be obligatory for future house sales – but so far into the future that the new regulations will be in by then anyway . . . . ) As most of our clients are French, they understand this and are choosing to install a waste water treatment system that complies with the new regulations, and more importantly that is more ecologically friendly and pleasant in use.

Anything Else? . . . . The New European regulations EN 12566 . . .

To complicate matters further for wastewater treatment, France accepted and ratified the European regulations for wastewater treatment EN 12566 in 2005 giving them a normes de France NF classification number of P 16-800-3/ICS 13.060.30. This also obliged France to comply with the requirements of EN12566 and apply the specifications given by June 2008 for all new wastewater treatment installations or the modernisation of existing fosse septics. Unfortunately, the latest news here is that the earliest we may expect any changes (after 3 rejected drafts already) is December 2008 – watch this space! The fundamental difference for France is that the European regulations rely on the results obtained being sufficiently clean – particularly for mini wastewater treatment plants conforming to EN12566-3 or micro stations d’épuration - these are expressed as treatment efficiency ratios on the CE test certificate which is given after 38 weeks of pre-determined and varied tests by an independent organisation to check that wastewater treatment plants can remain effective under any number of extreme circumstances.

What Should You do?

Obviously, this leaves a confusing mess of regulations for fosse septics in France, where depending who you ask and which set of sewage treatment rules they are employed to oversee depends on the response you will receive. There is currently no definitive law to tell you what to do, or one French authority who can absolutely guarantee to give you correct information. However, as we have now handled over enquiries, a number that grows each day, we can take care of the entire process for you, and will give you common sense advice along the way, by completing the request form

The most important Thing to Remember about Wastewater Treatment in France

The golden rule is: Only install a wastewater treatment system that is “future proof”, independently CE performance certified, performance guaranteed, price guaranteed and that conforms with the new European regulations – or in all probability you will end up wishing you had. For your free, no obligation quotation, please complete the details on the contact form here