For those of you who own a property in France, you need to make sure that your sewage treatment system is up to date. To do so, you might need to get in touch with the SPANC – the governmental entity for wastewater treatment regulations.
During a periodic inspection, the SPANC, a service of your municipality that manages the control of non-collective sanitation facilities for homes not connected to the sewer system, issues an opinion that determines whether or not it is necessary to upgrade your wastewater treatment system.
What is SPANC in France?
The SPANC (Public Service for Non-Collective Sanitation) is a local public service that is the responsibility of the municipality. Its missions can also be entrusted to service providers within the framework of a service contract or a public service delegation. The contact details of the SPANC in your area are available at your local mairie (town hall).
The role of SPANC (Public Service for Non-Collective Sanitation) has two main components. Firstly, SPANC will verify that the existing installations are functioning correctly and do not present any health or environmental hazards. Secondly, they will accompany you in your construction or rehabilitation project, and validate and control the installation of your non-collective sewage treatment installation. In this article, we will focus on SPANC’s role in inspecting existing installations.
Inspection Reports (Avis de Contrôle) and Evaluations Issued by SPANC
SPANC’s main mission is to control the proper functioning of existing individual sewage treatment systems. A SPANC inspection (or ‘contrôles’) must be carried out on a French property every 10 years, although it is most often carried out between 4 and 8 years. According to the legislation established by the Ministries of the Environment and Health and included in the directives proposed by the water agencies, 6 types of evaluation are offered:
- installation without defects
- installation with maintenance or wear defects of one of the components
- an incomplete, undersized or seriously malfunctioning installation
- installation with sanitary safety defects or structural defects that could endanger the safety of people
- installation located near a drinking water catchment area
- absence of an installation
To better understand what these different evaluations mean, as well as the consequences induced at the local level, let’s take the example of the SPANC report of the municipality communities of the Canton of Pont-de-Veyle (2013 annual report on the price and quality of non-collective sewage treatment service).
Three categories of evaluations are listed there:
In this case, your installation conforms to the required standards. SPANC technicians will then simply advise you upon the maintenance that your installation requires. You will not be required to perform any work to rehabilitate your wastewater treatment system.
The systems that have an unreserved favourable evaluation, are mostly new or recent devices. They may also fall under the following criteria:
- Installations with maintenance defects present, or wear and tear of one of the elements of the wastewater treatment system. In this case, SPANC will propose a list of recommendations to improve the good functioning of the installation and ensure it conforms to the existing regulations. This will be a recommendation rather than a legal necessity and there won’t be a deadline imposed.
- In the case of very lightly occupied dwellings (for example, second homes, single people, or elderly couples) with very low volumes of wastewater, a non-compliant installation may be tolerated, as long as the current situation regarding inhabitants or wastewater levels does not change.
In this case, the installations are non-existent, inaccessible or in very bad condition. If there is a perceived danger to the health of the inhabitants or towards the environment, the installation must be rehabilitated within a maximum of 4 years, or within 1 year in the case of sale or acquisition of the housing. In case of absence of installation, this notice can be transformed into a formal notice to install a compliant system as soon as possible.
To find out more about the operation of SPANC and the branch that covers your municipality, ask for the contact details of the service at your local mairie.