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Byelaw 49 Guidance – Options to Comply

Houseboats

  1. Use Shore Facilities

Where practical, use shore facilities.

  1. Plumb to sewer

We advise that any vessel occupier wishing to discharge to sewer contact the appropriate sewerage undertaker for your area (see our Useful Links).

  1. On-board treatment

There are a number of small scale treatment units available for use on houseboats that will treat sewage.

If you are considering installing such a treatment unit, you should comply with the following requirements (from EA General Binding Rules on Registration of Small Sewage Discharges):

Requirements:

  1. All works and equipment used for the treatment of sewage effluent and its discharge must comply with the relevant design and manufacturing standards (ie the British Standard BS EN 12566-3) that was in force at the time of the installation, and guidance issued by the appropriate authority on the capacity and installation of the equipment.
  2. The sewage must receive treatment from a sewage treatment plant before being discharged.
  3. The sewage treatment plant system must be installed, operated and maintained in accordance with the manufacturer’s specification. This includes periodically removing waste sludge (to be done by an authorised person and disposed of to an appropriate facility and not to the river).
  4. The discharge from a sewage treatment plant must not cause pollution of surface water or groundwater.
  5. For discharges from a sewage treatment plant in tidal waters, the discharge outlet must be below the low water mark.
  6. Maintenance of the sewage treatment plant must be undertaken by someone who is competent.
  7. The owner must ensure a sewage treatment plant system is appropriately decommissioned where it ceases to be in operation so that there is no risk of pollutants entering the river.
  8. If a vessel is sold, the owner must give the new owner a written notice stating that a small sewage treatment plant is present, giving a description of the waste water system and its maintenance requirements.
  9. New regular discharges from a sewage treatment plant in a fixed location may need further assessment if in, or within 500m of, a Special Area of Conservation (SAC), Special Protection Area (SPA), Ramsar site, biological Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), aquatic local wildlife site, freshwater pearl mussel population, designated bathing water, protected shellfish water or within 50m of a chalk river.
  10. New discharges from a sewage treatment plant must be made to a watercourse that normally has flow throughout the year.

Treatment plants are also available from MARPOL Standards. These will be accepted for house boats - see Passenger boats page.

Much guidance for small sewage treatment plants is for land-based applications but contains some information that may be relevant to design of plants for vessels. Please see our Useful Links.

  1. Compost / Cassette Toilets

Compost Toilets separate solid and liquid waste so that the solid waste breaks down under aerobic conditions to 10-30% of its original volume. The liquid element is still "sewage" and must not be discharged to water or within 10m of a watercourse. A large advantage of compost toilets is that they do not consume water.

There are currently no British or European Standards covering Composting Toilets. The Environment Agency Pollution Prevention Guideline Number 4 (PPG4) on treatment and disposal of sewage where no foul sewer is available noted that the fluid fertiliser (urine) and dry compost (faecal matter broken-down under aerobic conditions) should not be discharged to a watercourse. Although this Guidance Note has been withdrawn (as the EA no longer provide "good practice" guidance) the requirements set out within the document should still be followed.

We recommend that you read the Environment Agency position statement on using composting toilets and the resulting compost (see Useful Links).

Cassettes should only be emptied into a designated disposal point.

  1. Install tank and routinely pump-out to a suitable receiver

Installation of a tank will necessitate this being pumped out to a suitable facility.

We have provided a list of commercial sources of information and commercial providers of pump-out facilities. Provision of this information does not imply endorsement. We recommend that you contact the relevant provider for further information.

Workboats

Workboats, tugs and multi-cats currently under the licence of the PLA (Section 124 of the Port of London Act 1968 (as amended)), have a number of options as to how to remain compliant. Under the proposed amendment, other commercial vessels not under international rule or Sec124 could also use these options.

1.Compost / Cass​ette Toilets

Compost Toilets separate solid and liquid waste so that the solid waste breaks down under aerobic conditions to 10-30% of its original volume. The liquid element is still "sewage" and must not be discharged to water or within 10m of a watercourse. A large advantage of compost toilets is that they do not consume water.

There are currently no British or European Standards covering Composting Toilets. The Environment Agency Pollution Prevention Guideline Number 4 (PPG4) on treatment and disposal of sewage where no foul sewer is available noted that the fluid fertiliser (urine) and dry compost (faecal matter broken-down under aerobic conditions) should not be discharged to a watercourse. Although this Guidance Note has been withdrawn (as the EA no longer provide "good practice" guidance) the requirements set out within the document should still be followed.

We recommend that you read the Environment Agency position statement on using composting toilets and the resulting compost (see Useful Links below).

Cassettes should only be emptied into a designated disposal point not into the Thames or other watercourses.

2.Install tank and routinely pump-out to a suitable receiver

Installation of a tank will necessitate this being pumped out to a suitable facility.

We have provided a list of commercial sources of information and commercial providers of pump-out facilities. Provision of this information does not imply endorsement. We recommend that you contact the relevant provider for further information.

3.Treatment

There are small treatment facilities that may be applicable for larger workboats, tugs and multicats, especially if tanks are available. The smallest system deals with 2000litres in a day and can fit in the same space as a washing machine would need. For more detail about compliance via treatment see this link.

Thames Freight Standards

Guidance can be found here.

Passenger Boats

  1. Capacity calculations

Methods to reduce the volume:

  • use of Vacuum toilets reduced the volume by up to 50 litres per person per day.
  • splitting grey water from black water can make similar reductions in volume required for storage and pump out durations.

 

  1. Storage and Pump Out

More details on pump out facilities are available here.

  1. Treatment

The proposed revision to Byelaw 49 states that the discharge of untreated sewage is not permitted, as such both storage and on board treatment are both possible routes to maintain compliance by operators.

The Port of London Authority has considered evidence from the IMO and US Coast Guard standards and how they have been applied elsewhere. There has also been a review of the available technology to meet both standards to make sure that these are available for installation in inland vessels on the Thames.

The most appropriate standard, where infrastructure is available, for vessels to meet compliance is the technical requirements set out in the Marine Environment Protection Committee resolution MEPC 227 (64) Annex 22. Many systems available will state if they are compliant to this standard. If operators are not sure they are welcome to check with the PLA prior to investment (see contact details below).

The Resolution also sets out testing requirements. There will also be an expectation of regime self-testing that should be integrated into any SMS documentation and records should be available to view during surveys or investigations by the relevant authorities.

Once treated in compliance with the resolution, the resultant discharge can then enter the Thames.

If you find other systems and standards please contact the environment team at the PLA environment@pla.co.uk

 All information provided herein is current at the time of publication. Inclusion in this guidance does not imply endorsement by the PLA.

Page updated July 2021.