Septic tanks: operating ban and exceptions

Septic tanks have been banned in Germany for several years. They may no longer be operated. What is the reason for the operating ban, and what exceptions apply to the ban on operation, tells you in detail this post. You will learn what you need to consider when upgrading.

Traditional sanitation

Septic tanks are the oldest and most structurally simple form of wastewater treatment. They work according to the principle of sedimentation.

Water-foreign components, which are heavier, sink down in the standing water due to their own weight and deposit as sludge. Even today, this so-called primary sludge is still produced in the sedimentation basins, which serve as a primary treatment for many modern sewage treatment systems. Sedimentation filters out the coarse constituents of the wastewater.

Effectiveness of water purification

Although water is clarified by sedimentation, many harmful substances remain in the water. Particularly problematic is the nitrogen produced by rotting processes and dissolved in the water. The bacteria, which undergo a strong increase by the decomposition processes of the organic material, are not filtered out by sedimentation.

Bacteria and nitrogen, in particular, are a heavy burden on the waters and the soil when introduced to a great extent. The water used as receiving water or the soil for infiltration are thereby heavily loaded.

Modern construction methods

Modern septic tanks are designed as so-called three-chamber septic tanks with three different, structurally separate chambers. They are slightly more effective than the older one-chamber pits, which usually only have an overflow. However, a thorough and environmentally friendly cleaning is not to reach even with these septic tanks.

Justification of the ban

Since 2001, because of the catastrophic conditions in many European rivers and lakes, water protection in the EU has been accelerated. Apart from other measures, no wastewater should be channeled into rivers and lakes, which would lead to major changes in the water balance.

Such changes lead to a massive threat to the natural flora and fauna in the water and can even lead to the "tipping over" of the water.

Leaching of poorly clarified wastewater in the soil is also problematic, because the pollutants can accumulate in the soil, and thus also reach the groundwater.

With regard to drinking water quality, an important protective measure has also been taken. Drinking water is produced in Germany from these sources:

  • Groundwater (mainly drinking water production)
  • near river wells (Uferbrunnen)
  • to a small extent also from flowing or stagnant waters

Inadequate water protection therefore threatens drinking water quality.

Exceptions to the ban

In Germany, so-called no-waste sewage collection pits are still permitted. Thus, if a septic tank does not have an outlet, and if a waste management company pumps out the collected wastewater at regular intervals and transports it to the treatment plant, such septic tanks are permitted.

In view of the costs of disposal - it may be carried out only by special companies with appropriate permission - but a conversion to a modern small wastewater treatment plant is advisable in any case.

An interesting, cost-effective alternative may be a built-up sewage treatment plant, but for all other treatment plants since 2015, they must have at least one biological purification unit. The process quality achieved must correspond to the regulatory requirements at the respective location.

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