Wastewater Treatment in France

Information on the Assainissement Non Collectif (ANC) privately-owned waste water treatment plants and how to managing the system on your property in France...

As elsewhere in Europe, in France used waste water cannot be discharged without appropriate treatment either via a private waste water treatment system or a municipal waste water plant.
  1. Assainissement Non Collectif (ANC) are privately-owned waste water treatment plants. This term is used regardless of the size of the treatment plant - the septic tank of a family home or waste water treatment plant for a large hotel.
  2. Assainissement Collectif describes all municipal waste water treatment plants regardless of size.
Any French residential zone of more than 2,000 inhabitants has the obligation to have a municipal waste water treatment plant. This is optional in smaller residential areas. Many small villages have a small municipal plant for the village centre, with private systems serving residences out of town. In some cases, a village cannot afford a municipal plant and all residents are obliged to have a private system. As a result, France has more than five million private waste water treatment systems. The French Government website Service Public has more information on the rules of disposing of waste water.

French Regulations

The Maire (Town Hall) and the organisations SPANC (Service Public d'Assainissement Non-Collectif) and SATESE (Service d'Assistance Technique à l'Exploitation des Stations d'Épuration) have roles to play within the regulating of safe treatment of waste water. The French government has two technical regulations (arrêtés) describing:
  1. All waste water systems up to 20 "Population Equivalents" (arrêté du 7 septembre 2009).
  2. All waste water systems above 20 PE (arrêté du 22 juin 2007).
These regulations are based on the size of a system (regardless of whether it's under private or municipal ownership). Administratively, the mayor is responsible of the good application of the regulations in their municipality, but this can be difficult for the smaller, rural municipalities with fewer financial resources. Because of this, the government created SPANC and SATESE. The role of these organisations is to provide technical and legal advice to the municipalities regarding the private and municipal waste water plants.

Regulation for Waste Water Systems (up to 20 PE)

The vast majority of the private systems are used for privately-owned residential houses and fall under this regulation. The property owner is responsible for having a good functioning waste water system and if this is not the case, the system has to be renewed. SPANC has the responsibility to visit and advise on all existing systems by the end of 2012.

Preparing for installation

An owner has the choice between:
  • Septic tank plus drainage pipes, sand filter or a zeolite filter or
  • Package waste water treatment (with government approval)
The choice depends largely on factors including the size of the project, available space, type of soil, type of use, geographical location. An owner might request a survey (étude) by a consulting engineer or a contractor for advice on the best choice. Once a project is documented, it must be submitted to the local SPANC office via the Mairie. SPANC cannot impose a system on a property owner, however it is responsible for ensuring that the proposed system is properly sized and conforms to the regulations. SPANC informs the municipality when the ANC (Assainissement Non-Collectif) project may begin.

During and after installation

Once finished (and in some cases during installation) an appointment is made for the work to be inspected by SPANC. If it complies with regulations, a certificate of conformity (Certificate de conformité) is issued. Inspections are not free; payment is made by the property owner to SPANC. Following that, SPANC is obliged to perform a minimum of one inspection visit every eight years, to ensure that the private installation is properly maintained and functioning correctly. The cost of installation of a private waste water system is carried entirely by the property owner. However if the system chosen runs without electricity, a zero percent interest loan (éco-prêt à taux zéro) is offered by the state.

Regulation for Waste Water Systems (above 20 PE)

In project of this size a proper study/design is made to ascertain the correct sizing of the waste water treatment. Also the required purification performance will depend on the local situation. The owner/engineer are free on the choice of the treatment process so long as it guarantees the quality of the treated effluent which will have to be regularly measured (usually once a year) by the owner.
Information supplied by Keith Lacey & Thomas Neve of Bioverte Environnement At 3 Rue du Moulin, 53300 Vauce, Mayenne Tel: 02 43 08 97 54 / Mobile: 06 84 38 58 51 / email Copyright © Bioverte Environnement All Rights Reserved