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Greywater not to be emptied into highway drains, DEFRA tells Van Life Matters

Campervan and motorhome owners should not dispose of greywater through highway drains, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has told Van Life Matters.

It comes after it emerged that a campervan hire firm is to be given a fixed penalty notice after the occupants of one of its campervans discharged waste water into a drain in the Scottish Highlands.

Speaking to Van Life Matters, DEFRA said that leisure vehicle owners should ensure that they dispose of greywater “appropriately to either the public foul sewerage system or to a private sewage treatment system designed to receive and treat it”.

Under the Environmental Permitting Regulations 2016, any discharge of greywater to either a watercourse or to the ground must either be subject to a permit granted by the Environment Agency or fall within the definition of an exempt activity.

A watercourse includes ditches, streams and drains which are not owned by a sewerage undertaker.

In a statement obtained by Van Life Matters, a DEFRA said: “As highways drains will drain via one of these two routes, the scope of this requirement includes any disposal of greywater to highways drains.

“It is essential to ensure that greywater is properly treated before it is discharged as untreated, or inadequately treated, greywater can lead to pollution, particularly in circumstances where highways drains discharge to ponds or seasonally dry watercourses or in popular areas.

“It is also unlikely in our experience that the owners of highways drains would give permission for untreated grey water to be disposed of to those drains.

Related: Falls of Foyers toilet and motorhome waste facilities open

“Campervan and motorhome owners should not, therefore, dispose of their greywater through highway drains and should ensure that they dispose of it appropriately to either the public foul sewerage system or to a private sewage treatment system designed to receive and treat it.”

The Campaign for Real Aires in the UK (CAMpRA) has produced a map which includes waste disposal points around the UK using Searchforsites data and is freely available to view.

A separate map, produced by the Campervan and Motorhome Professional Association (CAMPA), shows waste disposal points and campsites in Scotland which allow leisure vehicle owners to use their services for free.

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Paul Simpson July 21, 2023 at 7:36 am

A very informative article on disposing of grey water waste. I have shared it to two Irish groups I am in, for info of any members travelling to Scotland. Also emailed it to Steve Haywood of CAMpRA, for info, as it is always great when our group gets a good mention.

Paul Newton July 21, 2023 at 10:15 am

informative and opens up many didcussion points. have shared to Campra as I feel that provision of public designated disposal points is no way near enough.

Mike Ruff July 23, 2023 at 6:36 am

Thanks Paul, appreciate the kind words and thanks for sharing!

Dave Mc July 24, 2023 at 9:03 am

100% agree with you Paul, but should add I live in the village where the incident took place – there is a very well signed public disposal point for grey and black waste less then a half mile from where they chose to offload in the middle of the village next to the childrens playpark. On a positive note, more and more disposal points are being built in this part of the country.

Robert Turner July 21, 2023 at 9:15 pm

Can we just at the example of you washing your campervan on your drive at home. Where does that soapy water go? I would suggest down your drive and into a surface water sewer.

Does this mean you are breaking the law? Can no one wash their car at home any longer.

Is the solution take your van to the local jetwash and dispose of your grey water at the same time?

Corrine July 22, 2023 at 9:04 am

I feel this is such a shame – our greywater is just clean water with a little soap. We plan to ask on sites if they want us to use the water on their plants, if dry. A bucket under the waste pipe should do. But if not, i guess we shall have to comply. Certainly in last years heatwave, I think most places were glad of the waste water going onto their plants/grass. But i can understand it could cause a problem if there is a lot and over an extended period of time.

Anthony “Bill” Bailey July 22, 2023 at 9:26 am

We were in Morecambe last year and noticed numerous motohomes parked on the promenade who had clearly empied their waste water where they were parked. Directly opposite were residential properties. It looked disgusting, with various waste food items deposited with the water. Such anti-social behaviour is a major reason whymohos are increasincly banned and Morecambe’s council are proposing to do this soon. Such stupidity should be penalised.

Mr&Mrs K Thompson September 6, 2023 at 12:51 pm

Not that we do, but why is it stupidity???

Same water as your home bath/sink/washing machine/dishwasher etc

So long as it is done without spilling/flooding into the road, what would be the problem?

Frank January 29, 2024 at 9:50 am

Your home bath/sink/washing machine/dishwasher should be going to the sewer, not the rainwater drains.

Sarah March 24, 2024 at 9:09 am

Unless you have a septic tank, in which case it soaks into the ground.

Mr&Mrs K Thompson September 6, 2023 at 12:46 pm

What is the problem with emptying grey water into a roadside drain??
Allsort of fluids go down these drains.
Grey waste is only personal washing or washing up water.
Same drainage/sewer as homes drain into.
I get that ‘toilet’ waste should be treated differently and only at specific waste sites.


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