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Ideal septic tank replacement in France - legislation guide

By: Valentin Fortea on Jul 3, 2024

Regulation in France regarding non conforming septic tanks

In 2009, the French government introduced a new legislation, arrêté du 7 septembre 2009 modifié on top of the European EN-12566-3 standards and CE marking to support the replacement of legacy “fosse septique” septic tanks with sand filters and to further control the use of small waste water treatment plant throughout the country.

Traditional systems such as the sand filter are still allowed. The new legislation opened the door to approved packaged treatment plant known as “micro station d’épuration” in France.

In 2024, 15 years later, the French requirements are even stricter. The local laboratories CSTB and CERIB are now the official public body in charge of delivering the local certification on behalf of the Ministry for Environment. The latest addition to their requirements which is the legislation “ASAP accélération et simplification de l'action publique”, 28th of October 2020, is the installation of the tank at a minimum distance of 5 meters from the building - "note relative à la mise du jour cadre destiné aux opérateurs économiques pour la procédure d’agrément des dispositifs d’ANC”, 23rd of October 2023.

Previously this requirement was only applied to the drainage field which had to be located at a minimum of 5 meters from the house as per the French norm DTU 64.1.  This is the equivalent of building regulations for installing an off-mains sewage treatment plant.

All packaged treatment plant will also need from July 2024 to undergo a lid integrity test to ensure that the manhole can withstand a weight of 600 daN. This is nearly 610 kg. The aim is to further protect the public health and safety through the use of more robust and durable equipment.

In addition, every aspect of the packaged treatment plant life is examined from product durability, installation guidelines, maintenance requirements and overall cost over 15 years in order to provide as much information as possible for installers and property owners.

There are 5 millions properties not connected to the mains in France and a run rate of new install or renovation of nearly 100,000 per year. There is still a long way to bring all off-mains sewage treatment plant up to European and French standard throughout the country and its overseas territories where the rules apply.

The red tape in France to replace an off-mains treatment system

The local public body in France in charge of overseeing the installation and replacement of septic tank is the SPANC (Service Public d’Assainissement Non Collectif). They are the local environment agency and the first point of contact for all new installation of a packaged treatment plant. Bearing in mind there is 35,529 towns and “mairie” in France, there is nearly a thousand SPANC entities spread across the country. Each local SPANC is in charge of 10 to 40 villages.

  1. Contact SPANC to comply

The property owner will need to consult the local SPANC to find out if a soil report is necessary in the area. In most cases, it will be required and will enable the user to design the most suitable off-mains treatment system based on the needs of the household and the constraints of the ground and the plot.

The soil report carried out by the local pedologist, the soil scientist, will also include several drawings with the best location for the tank and the most suitable discharge solution either a drainage field or directly into a watercourse if possible.

  1. Carry out a soil report

Once the soil report has been finalised, the owner of the house will need to contact SPANC again to fill in a formal “request for work authorisation”. This is an essential step for SPANC to check that the proposed design complies with the legislation and latest building regulations. A formal pre-approval letter, a permit to start the works, will be sent to the property owner to enable them to plan for the works with a trusted installer.

  1. Installation and site inspection

At this stage, it is possible to move forward with the replacement of the old septic tank and install the new waste water treatment plant. There is still one last red tape to comply with, the installer or property owner will need to inform SPANC ahead of the works. A SPANC technician will come on site for the final inspection the works and make that the installation is being carried out as per the design and the "request for work authorisation”.

The technician will check the model and size of the packaged treatment plant installed, the slopes of the new pipework, the ventilation along with the distances for the tank, the drainage bed, the building, trees and plot’s boundaries. Assuming all has been carried out as planned, the SPANC will issue a compliance document to the property owner for future reference.

A convoluted process but a necessary one, to implement best practices throughout France and preserve the environment, in times where water is now more than ever a precious commodity.

In 2006, the Diamond range of small packaged treatment plants was introduced into France to serve a rural cottage in the French Limousin.

18 years later, the France-certified Diamond keeps on serving existing and new homeowners throughout the country. The reliable Diamond range is better designed for modern day living than a septic tank system; with faster process and a more environmentally friendly result. There is no need for chemicals, allowing final effluent to be safely discharged to a drainage field or watercourse.

Topics: Wastewater Treatment

Valentin Fortea

Written by Valentin Fortea

Valentin is an independent account manager based in France, with extensive experience in the international wastewater treatment market, having spent six years at WPL (now part of WCS Environmental Engineering). Currently, Valentin supports a substantial network of expert drainage engineers throughout France on behalf of Centrale Micro Station.

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