Fosse Septique to replace or play the long game

Hi all

We are shortly to become the owners of a property in the Ardeche (second home), we have a non conforme fosse as they say. The SPANC report states it is not a danger to persons and it is not a danger to the environment. The fosses are two small, no grease trap and it does not have the modern style filter bed. So do we up the size of the tanks add a grease trap and let it be, but what about the grey water, also in the fosse ? Will SPANC/SEBA actually do anything about it, they say we have a year ? Then what ?

So any folk out there with real experience not hear say, not somebody they know what actually happened to you ?

Appreciate your thoughts



If you do not have a well (forage) and water for the garden but you can effort do it right with the option for recuperation of your water so you can use it for plants in your garden it will pay of very quickly. Here on SFN is someone who does this fosse things and knows enough regarding the regulations. A cheap solution can get you really good in trouble during rainy seasons..., especially if your old fosse is too small.

I installed my own, hired a digger which unfortunately came with a french man at the wheel bought a 4000l fosse and all the relevant pipes and inspection hatches at a cost of around 500 euros in 2002 and with a cost of 500 euros a day for digger and man we started early. Unfortunately the driver and his mate spied the packs of beer and it being a very hot summer needed rehydration. I put out a couple of beers and 4 bottles of water, gave them instructions to dig a 2.2 m in depth and the dimensions of the fosse for the width and length and then I had to go out. On my return he'd dug a 3 metre hole and he was pissed having found the rest of the beers, 2 cases guzzled. I told him to back fill which said was impossible and then pretended to not understand me, having already paid him up front which was the deal I left to find my neighbour who had contracted this bloke to sort him out. On our return I found that he had placed the fosse in the excavation and was now backfilling around the tank, I screamed at him to stop but he happily carried on. You have to fill the tank with water before you back fill or the plastic fosse collapses in on itself I so wanted to kill this man as I watched the tank begin to crumple. I climbed onto the digger and turned the machine off and took the key out, he was angry but not as angry as me and the row that ensued had my daughter calling the police who came and told the guy to stop and I had to hand back the key which he used to start up the digger and drive off and leave the job half done. I showed the policeman all the empty bottles so they went after him and did him for drink driving so then my neighbour stopped talking to me. I was left to finish the job by hand, luckily he'd stated to dig the trenches for the pipes but they all had to be lowered by another metre and I had to backfill by hand only took me a week. The long and the short of it is when I was inspected last year the guy from Veolia said I needed a new fosse bacause mine is too deep I told him if he pays to have a new one installed then by all means go ahead, his response was " I suppose it will do" and I've heard nothing since.

if the tank is a long way from my property - closer in fact to a neighbour's - then I assume the vent pipe has to be 50cm. above his roof line (assuming that is, that the pipe goes striaght up out of the tank)

- or is it more usual to return the vent pipe to my property - then up the gable end - so to speak?



ours isn't 3m from the building and has been passed, cleared by spanc and we have had our subvention approved and await the cash to arrive now.

Yes, that is it Simon, you jolted my memory. The minimum is, I believe, preferred not to be applied unless there is no other option and at least 5m is favoured.

tank needs to be a minimum of 3m away from the dwelling and 3 m away from a boundary, the fosse vent pipe needs to vent 50cm above the top of your roof line.

Gave me a year to extend vent pipe.That was 4 years ago. Haven't seen or heard from them since.
As it is a second home, you are unlikely to be using the fosse septique to its maximum capacity.
Recommend the long game. Make sure you are not in residence anytime they want to visit.

As far as grease traps are concerned, I would avoid putting grease down the kitchen sink. We fry, using just a film of olive oil to prevent sticking and wipe the pan with paper towel (if the cat hasn't already cleaned it for us) before washing. When I lived in the UK, a "drain man" removed a metre long white cylindrical plug from the underground pipes. He explained that this was composed of cooking fat and washing machine detergent. Had to be seen to be believed.

Think you mean Eparcyl. That is the one we use. The cleaner complement the activator. However, none of them are as effective for keeping the pan clean below water, which is why we use bicarb to scrub it occasionally.

Hi Haydn, there are many suitable toilet cleaning products for 'fosses septiques on the market. Septifosse do one and I think Clarcil (sp). All the supermarkets sell them along with the standard toilet cleaners.

Just to say - look into what grant you can get - ours was really good. Though they won't have grants forever - so maybe worth doing sooner rather than later,,,

Our ventilation pipe is in the same place and our filterbed is approx 20 mtrs from the actual fosse.

We had a new fosse installed professionally last year, 3000 Ltr with a sand filter which then drained out onto our own land. No grease trap as the fosse was located within 5 mtrs of the house. They also uncovered the old concrete fosse, had this emptied then then they filled this with sand and sealed it again before covering it over forever. The cost was 7,000 Euros TTC. We were inspected before they started, then again prior to them finishing the work (before the back filled the fosse and filter system) and were subsequently sent a certificate of conformity.

The team of 3 guys were very good and the whole job took 1 week from start to finish. They used a very large digger and we had to remove some fencing to enable them and the large truck (with the sand) to gain access.

Hope this helps.

Rgds, Mike L

Around 12 years ago there was a move by the government to get all houses either connected to a mains system or install new fosse systems. Two years later were duly inspected and our installations were passed as fit for use so they are still in use - they are about 25 years old. After the imspections took place there was suppossed to be a meeting at the mairie to discuss the options which never took place. At the time there was talk of replacement systems being funded by the commune with some payment by the house owners and government grants being available or, if of pensionable age, being wholly funded. We have heard nothing since.

I have just seen that brian says there must be a distance X between house & fosse, yet another post i just read says that the ventillation pipe usually goes up the gable end of the house.

Can anyone confirm if indeed there is a minimim required distance between house & fosses?



Might be worth looking at an 'Eco-pret' from your bank: ten years interest-free loan "guaranteed" by the Bank of France for fosse and energy efficiency works (insulation, double glazing, central heating etc), although quite how the guarantee works might require some close examination.

Familiar story of politicians signing-up to worthy causes and expecting the civilian population to fund it; it's the retro-active element that is irksome, especially when applied to those already comfortable in their homes.It is rumoured that our Maire has told SPANC we're all too poor to have this thrust upon us, so they shouldn't waste their time;- pragmatism at it's best. Our near neighbours (4 bed house / three people) on the other side of the canal are looking at €8k of works.

Achieving regulatory compliance is key when selling the property and the mandatory diagnostic reports are a legal requirement before any preliminary sale / purchase contract is signed; the buyer has one year in which to meet compliant standards and will usually seek to 'adjust' their purchase price to reflect the cost of implementation.

Your call as to whether you want the property to be "all up together" or not.

Bicarbonate of soda. It does not do any harm if used in moderation.

Following through on this subject what advise can members give me in cleaning the toilet. We have just moved in and I know bleach products should not be used......What is on the market as a suitable alternative?


New regulations have stopped use of cellars and there now needs to be distance X between house and fosse or micro-station. My OH sells houses and has had to do a lot of work with people to resolve a number of complicated problems. Most houses with small courtyards and restricted space generally are in villages and upward in size. Many of them have mains and that means paying to be connected. However, hearing what she says sometimes there have been tales of fosses installed on the other side of roads, thus costing people the road work as well, even having to purchase a plot on somebody else's land. Strictly speaking, when people are putting their house up for sale SPANC should do one of the inspections along with power consumptions, lead, asbestos, etc, required nowadays and if there is no agent involved to advise then a notaire should. Many of both do not. Therefore deals are sometimes being done by reducing the sale price so that the buyer takes what is permissible on. Inevitably that is a bad deal when the list is turned into must do work: electrician, plumber, builders, digger hire and all the rest of the people who cost and must be used so that people have warranties to show the insurance companies. Over the last two or so years what was a very 'relaxed' regime has changed a lot. My Oh spends a lot of time chasing up various people because, for instance, since 1 April 2009, it has been a legal requirement to have an electrical inspection when selling (not buying) a property which is more than 15 years old. It is mandatory to have SPANC (or one of the other two possible services in some places) inspect and the report included as part of the house sale (not purchase). The energy report is mandatory too. Simply talk to the notaire about it all and and do not complete the sale unless everything is done. The bills are scary. If we had known then we would never have bought this particular house.

Careful with that though. They pass their reports on to communes who are able to enforce what they recommend. We are playing the 'long game' for as long as we get away with it but have seen how many SPANC reports when houses go on the market have gone to mairies and the sale more or less blocked until the vendors replace. It may well be that enforcement is patchy and weak, but regulations are tightening up year on year. We are waiting to see how it stands with the reorganisation of the region down to cantonal level for one thing here. If it is still SPANC then we'll muddle through until we are under pressure, the local service de l'eau would mean no change but if it is Veolia then we will move as quickly as possible. We also need to see whether micro-stations will be allowed, given that two cantons that are being divided with parts coming to the bigger one we will be in insist on standard fosses, because we are left not knowing right now. So Michael, I am not disagreeing but the goalposts are being moved although unfortunately you never know when, where or how.