Septic tanks can cause pollution to watercourses if they are not maintained properly. Call of Nature is a new campaign to raise awareness of the pollution that badly maintained septic tanks, cesspits and package sewage treatment plants could cause to the North West's rivers and waterways.

The North West region has the highest number of private sewerage systems in the UK with 60,000 properties not connected to the public sewer network. Septic tanks work like miniature sewage treatment systems, which store and treat waste from households.

A well maintained septic tank does not cause any problems, however when they are not serviced properly, they can have a negative impact on the environment, spreading disease in animals and humans and causing pollution in lakes, rivers and seas.

The Call of Nature campaign aims to make people aware of the risks of not looking after an off-mains sewage treatment system. The campaign, which is led by Morecambe Bay Partnership with support from the Environment Agency, United Utilities, Mersey Rivers Trust, British Water and the Lune, Eden, Ribble, Wyre, South Cumbria and West Cumbria rivers trusts, hopes to convince people that their actions can make a difference.

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If you look after your system,it will need emptying less often so you save money. Regular maintenance costs around £100 to £250 per year. If you don’t do this, the cost of repairing or replacing a malfunctioning system or a failed drainage field rockets to anything between £5,000 and £10,000.

If you let your system get into an unusable condition, it could easily lower the value of your property. You might not be thinking of moving house next week, but it’s still worth keeping on top of it.

Case Studies


In November 2016, the Healthy Rivers Trust (as it was then) kicked off their first Call of Nature project. The project focused on engaging communities within the Alt/Crossens Catchment which covers Ormskirk, Maghull, Formby and Southport.

Several community events were held to interact with local people and raise awareness of septic tank issues in the area. These included stalls at Martin Mere Wetland Centre and Mere Sands Wood Nature Reserve, attending the parish council meeting and a free tea and cake event at the local village hall. Information packs were handed out containing factsheets and leaflets produced by the Morcambe Bay Partnership and partners. In addition, discount leaflets for local contractors were distributed to encourage people to get their septic tanks maintained.

In-depth water quality surveys were undertaken by specialist contractors APEM to identify areas of high pollution and problem properties. We then recruited and trained volunteers as River Guardians to regularly monitor these stretches of river to identify any improvements (or declines) in water quality.


BEACON started work on the Call of Nature Project in September 2017. The aim of this project is to engage with homeowners and farmers who have properties that are not connected to mains sewers.  Many people are not aware of how to look after their septic tank or sewage treatment system, nor do they realise the impact that a failing system can have on the environment.

We focused on the parishes of Marthall and Ollerton as there are a significant number of houses and buildings here not connected to mains sewers.  Also, the brooks in these villages, Marthall and Pedley Brooks are in poor ecological condition because of high levels of phosphates and nitrates found in the water.  You can view that information here

We spoke to local people at community events, such as the Christmas Fair and held a workshop to let them know how to maintain the sewage systems they have and what can go down the drains.  We were been able to arrange discounts with local companies that emptied septic tanks as part of this project.

Volunteers from these parishes were trained as River Guardians and still carry out regular water quality surveys, looking for elevated nitrate and phosphate levels in the local area.  APEM Consultants carried out a more in-depth water quality survey of both Marthall and Pedley Brooks and identified areas with chronic septic tank pollution issues.  Actions have been identified and we are applying for further funding to undertake these actions. We are also continuing to talk to the local community about these issues and are liaising with the parish council to get this added into the Neighbourhood Plan.



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