Individual sewage treatment (ANC or assainissement non-collectif in French) is governed by a set of regulations applicable throughout the French territory. As French homeowner, it’s important to understand these regulations and how they are applied.
Which Regulations Apply to Sewage Treatment in France?
Non-collective sanitation is regulated directly or indirectly by a number of legislative texts. For example, we can find some individual sewage treatment annotations in some articles of the General Local Authorities Code and of the Town Planning Code, as well as of the Building and Housing Code and of the Public Health Code; it is also spoken about in the Law on Water and Aquatic environments of 2006, as well as in the Grenelle Environment…
Beyond these general texts, it is important to mention, among the applicable regulations on the individual sewage treatment:
- The Ministerial Decree on “technical requirements” of September 7, 2009, amended by the Ministerial Decree of March 7, 2012,
- The Ministerial Decree on “Controls” of April 27, 2012,
- The Ministerial Decree on the “Emptier Approval” of September 7, 2009, amended by The Ministerial Decree of December 3, 2010,
- The NF EN 12566-3 Standard,
- The DTU 64-1 Standard, and,
- The various local regulations, which we will try to briefly summarize in the following pages for your convenience.
Applicable regulations in a few words
Ministerial Decree: Technical requirements applicable to the individual sewage treatment
The Ministerial Decree on the technical requirements applicable to the individual sewage treatment (Non-Collective sewage treatment) has been amended and came into force on July 1, 2012.
The Ministerial Decree on “technical requirements” of September 7, 2009, amended by the Ministerial Decree of March 7, 2012, applies to installations of 1 to 20 PE. These two decrees clearly define what an individual sewage treatment system must be. If you don’t take the time to read everything, start with 6 of the articles that are in these decrees (and their respective amendments):
- Article 5 of the M.D. of 03-07-2012 ratifies among other things in II-4°, the golden rule for the dimensioning of an ANC installation from 1 to 20 PE: 1 MR = 1 PE, i.e., 1 inhabitant equivalent for each main room of the dwelling (except for establishments receiving from to the public and except for exceptional cases), where a ‘main room’ is a sleeping or living room.
- Article 6 of the M.D. of 09-07-2009 defines the traditional filters and the filter beds on zeolite bed (it is thus directly inspired by the decrees of May 6, 1996, and December 24, 2003, in the meantime, repealed), while Article 7 specifies what the systems which must be the object of a specific Ministerial Approval are (compact filter systems, microstations, alternative systems) to be marketed in France.Warning: the installation of any non-traditional filtering system that has not obtained Ministerial Approval is strictly illegal in France! Beware of those swindlers that refer to so-called European regulations or certifications to make you believe that you can buy their sewage treatment systems without fear, or those who try to sell certificated equipment imported from abroad. There are also scammers, often based beyond the French borders, who sell so-called approved equipment on the Internet with falsified documents and once they are paid, deliver equipment that has nothing to do with their promises! There are two approaches in order to avoid these deceptions and counterfeits: 1.) do not buy on the internet unless purchasing directly from the manufacturers (or their clearly identified and confirmed distributors), and 2.) check on the dedicated inter-ministerial website that the system you were proposed to is indeed approved.
- Articles 11 to 13 specify that the treated water at the outlet of a sewage treatment system must be infiltrated into the soil as a priority, or by default discharged into the surface water environment, or else sent into infiltration wells – of course, specifying under which conditions one can use which type of outlet, i.e. according to which soil permeability criteria, subject to which authorizations, etc.
Ministerial Decree: Individual Sanitation Control
The ministerial decree on the non-collective sanitation control came into force on July 1, 2012. It defines the control mission of the installations by the Public Service of Non-collective Sanitation (also called SPANC).
The Ministerial Decree on “Controls” of April 27, 2012, repealed the previous version of September 7, 2009. By default, the “water police” are in the hands of the mayor of the municipality, who can delegate this authority to an organization such as a “SPANC” (public service of non-collective sanitation). This decree defines the control mission of the installations by SPANC.
As an owner of a sewage treatment installation, you will need to contact your SPANC for two main reasons:
- When an existing installation needs to be rehabilitated or when you wish to build a new installation: article 3 prescribes a preliminary examination of the design by SPANC (important: the SPANC report, detailing the conformity of the installation to the regulatory requirements, will be attached to any request for a building or development permit), and verification of the good execution of the work done by this same SPANC. Your goal is to obtain a report from the SPANC certifying that your installation complies with the existing regulations.
- During periodic inspections of your installation: SPANC will come at least once every ten years to check that your installation is working and that it is correctly maintained. If it represents a health or environmental hazard, you will have four years to bring it up to standard; in the case of a property sale, you will have one year to do so.
Approval of Non-Collective Sanitation Desludgers
The ministerial decree on the approval of ‘desludgers’ of non-collective sanitation came into force on 15 December 2010.
Non-collective sanitation systems generate sludge; this sludge is stored in the all-water tank or the decanter, which must be emptied regularly. This decree specifies the conditions under which the people carrying out such emptying and/or taking in charge the transport and the elimination of the extracted materials are approved. The people/companies are indeed subject to prefectural approval as well as to the respect of very precise rules on the way of carrying out their activities (quotas on the extracted materials volume, elimination only with dedicated filters etc.).
NF EN 12566-3 Standard Individual Sanitation
Summary of the NF EN 12566-3 standard on individual (or non-collective) sanitation.
NF EN 12566-3 This French standard, directly derived from the corresponding European standard, concerns “small wastewater treatment systems up to 50 PE” and more precisely, since we are talking about part 3, “domestic wastewater treatment systems ready for use and/or assembled on site”. It defines the technical criteria that any sewage treatment system from 1 to 50 PE must respect (in terms of mechanical resistance, water-tightness, and purification performance) in order to bear the CE marking.
The “technical requirements” decrees of September 7, 2009, and March 7, 2012, make direct reference to this standard: to put it simply, they ratify its application. The Ministerial Approval procedure takes up its criteria and adds a number of additional requirements.
This means, once again, that a “European approval” does not mean anything (the term does not even officially exist): the CE marking, i.e. the respect of the criteria imposed by (NF) EN 12566-3, is only a first step on the way to the French Ministerial Approval.
Summary of the DTU 64.1 Non-Collective Sanitation
Summary of the best practices of the DTU 64.1 regarding the installation of non-collective sanitation systems:
This “unified technical document” has just been revised: NF DTU 64.1 (approved French standard), dated August 2013, has just replaced XP DTU 64.1 (experimental standard) of March 2007. The new version is available on the Afnor website and a summary document written by IFAA is also available. This new DTU 64.1 is entitled: “Non-collective sanitation systems (called autonomous) – For individual houses up to 20 main rooms”. Any professional involved in the installation of sewage treatment systems must be perfectly familiar with its contents and apply it in the field!
These recommendations define the best practices for the construction of “traditional” sewage treatment systems (all-water tank + soil treatment). The DTU 64.1 is deliberately vague on how to install an approved system; the indications concerning a given approved system should be sought in the technical manual of the corresponding manufacturer. Nevertheless, since a tank is a tank, many points of this DTU are common to all the sewage treatment systems and can therefore be applied to all cases (for example, backfilling a tank in dry soil, or backfilling in wet or difficult soil).
It should be noted that beyond a few technical additions (for example, the introduction of a paragraph on earthwork, redefinition of aggregates, consideration of intermittent distribution, etc.), NF DTU 64.1 has been aligned with the existing ministerial decrees, since it now officially concerns systems of 1 to 20 PE (and no longer 1 to 10 PE like its predecessor). It is now divided into 3 parts: the standard technical specifications (part 1-1), the general criteria for the materials chosen (part 1-2) and the standard special administrative specifications (part 2).
Local Regulations on Individual Sanitation
Local regulations on individual sewage treatment complement national and European directives.
Numerous prefectural and communal decrees and other SPANC regulations may complete the national regulations locally and/or adapt them to local constraints. It would be both illusory and useless to try to list them here: knowing that you must, whatever your sewage treatment project is, get in touch with your SPANC to have the design of your project validated before starting the work, they will be best placed to inform you about any local regulations and, if necessary, give you a written copy.