Firstly hope everyone is staying safe in these strange times.

06/10/2020 - 06:30

Firstly hope everyone is staying safe in these strange times.

I have an old rural property in the mountains of Piedmonte that I think needs a septic tank installed.(currently send to just be a pit).

My question is how far from a water course dues it need to be, the property has land but there are several streams crossing it.






Couple of questions.

1.  What part of Piemonte?

2.  Why do you think you need to get rid of the pit?

3.  Have you consulted a Geometra?



Thanks for the reply 

I am up  towards Alagna.

The pit is located about 10ft from a stream so the risk of something leaching into the water seems too great.

Re a geometra I don't want to start the process or catch the attention of the authorities at this moment and feel if I take to a geometra things could start to move quickly.





Whst have other properties on the area not in terms of sewage management?  

Hsve you tried getting the pit emptied? Before we went on mains drainage, our tank discharged so called clean water, and when the tank was full it discharged sewage, into the village drain that drained into a stream.  Every house in the hamlet did the same.  The local farmer would pump out the tank when this happened into a browser and spread it on the fields his cattle grazed on.  (Delicious farm cheese produced).

I'd have a quiet chat with your neighbours to see what they do.

Hi thanks for the reply. Not sure I wanted to know that about the local cheese! Still won't do me eat far too much of it. 

Our place is completely on its own, no other properties near by.

I think I am going to install a macerator so I can pump the material up and into a septic tank well away from the streams. The kids use them for swimming.

Just wanted to make sure the tank is far enough away. UK/EU regs say 10m so if I am over 50m i hope it's enough.

Are you currently in Italy or planning to get over this summer? If so how are you feeling about the odds of getting there re UK quarantine?



Hello Mr. Clueless,

I am an architect and have done a few refurbs. of little houses in the middle of nowhere in various aparts of Italy. The local Comune will have regulations regarding the distance the septic tank can be from various water courses.

Every Comune will be different as their landscapes, geology, water courses will be different but the principal is the same - the septic tank can pollute the water courses if there is extreme flooding rain waters that could wash the septic tank's contents into the major water courses, so they want to maintain a sensible distance between them. 

Therefore for example many Comunes on Lake Como will not allow a septic tank within 1km of the lake shore, and it cannot be within 10m of any stream.

Another point unrelated to water courses but related to the site of a septic tank is that you need to be sure that the septic tank does not discharge onto another persons (neighbour's) land as they can object and get you to move your tank. If it discharges onto your land or into a ditch on the public road are common solutions, but get them verified by your tecnico.  


All the best,




Usually the Comune do not have the information referring to a specific building subject so readily available on their website. The Comune will have a little booklet downloadable as a PDF along with an incredible amount of other material – usually but not always it is called the N.T.A. or Norme Tecniche di Attuazione del P.R.G. – where the P.R.G. is their Development Plan. This is their booklet of Planning and Building Regulations and in that document there should be indications on the sites of septic tank.

I am not sure if you should be so scared of speaking to the Comune or of speaking to Geometras.  If your place is old, and the sewage system pre-dates the regulations on septic tanks, you are not "abusivo" or on the wrong side of the law. It is only when you start to refurbish that the Coumne will insist that you respect the current regulations. If you do not propose any work the Comune cannot make you change something that already existed prior to new Regs.

Let me know how old you place is – as it could be you can leave it like it is (also if it is not ideal) – indefinitely. Then once you are in a position to carry out major works you will need to install a regular system.

It sounds to me as if you may have a soakaway pit, which were quite common in the day, but today a new one is not allowed unless in a very controlled situation.

I do not like the idea of a macerator – it sounds as if it will be expensive, and how will a system like that work, if you lose power?
A macerator will definitely not be a suggested method from the locals – best find out what the locals do.

You will need to speak to people to get crucial information. The best case scenario, the Comune or local people may inform you that a municipal sewage pipe has recently been installed under the public road, or will be installed soon.

Certainly the advice of Alan H is excellent in asking your neighbours how they manage their waste. They may tell you to “mind you own business” if you ask straight away. But the context of opening up dialogue with neighbours for peaceful and mutual benefit can only be a good idea, sewage management is one of the many topics that neighbour can help you on.

Are you in Italy now?     





Thanks for the reply. I am planning to come over around the 10th July if this lockdown continues too ease.

The property is situated on its own with no neighbors. It was built around 1750.

With regard the soak away is that something that we could have emptied or remove some of the material to help it operate?

The reason for considering the macerator is because the lower levels of the property are about 5 meters below the parcel of land that's away from the stream.



I agree with Conor (Ronco) about not getting a mascerator.  Too risky with power cuts, (not unusual in the countryside), leaks and breakdowns etc.  If you need to fit a new system go for one that relies on gravity.

If the pit isn't giving you problems, idvjust live with it for now  and probably get a local farmer to pump it out.  That should extend its life considerably.  You don't say if the house is lived in permanently, or just used for holidays.  The amount of occupation, and number of occupants an really affect how effective a pit is.

One tip - make sure you use 'Eco' cleaning materials in the house, so as not to kill off the bacteria in the pit.



Thanks good point about power cuts.

The property is only for holidays at the moment and was originally built for slot more than the 4 of us 

I will have a look at getting the current soak way system cleared out a bit.

Not sure how easy that will be as the pipe just stops and below is mainly Rocks  etc

I am assuming to let the waste material filter through.



Its a bit odd about it being full f rocks - not something I'd expect.

2 possible reasons spring to mind:-

  • Its the way they do it in that area -ask about or talk to a local geometra, who would know how things were done 'in the old days'


  • at some stage the pit was no longer required [building not used some time after the pit was built?] and it was filled in to stop people falling in, and subsequently the fill [rocks] settled.

Either way, I'd see how it goes with the existing pit for while, as it won't get a lot of usage if its a holiday home just for you, and you don't let it out.


One thing, if you do have to go for a tank at some time in the future, remember it needs good access for installing it and for emptying it.

 Think it is the old old way of doing it when the technology was super basic and they used rocks and gravel to drain the pit.


I was calling it a Soakaway - but the right name is maybe Soakpit, I think and in Italian "pozzo perdente" or "pozzo nero"

One thing that could be well worth doing whilst you are over there next time.

You can buy a product, by a company called WC Net in most large supermarkets that is a fosse re-activator.  Doesn't cost a lot, and you mix it with water and flush it down the loo.  It refreshes the bacteria that work in the soakaway pit  to digest solids etc.  These bacteria tend to die off when the pit isn't used [holiday home/covid restrictions], and should make it last longer without needing emptying [difficult with rocks in].

Also use fosse friendly cleaners, etc., as things like bleach really mess up the workings of a pit

I did a Google search on:-

"how to boost cesspit performance"

Gives several things you could buy in UK and take to your Italian house when you next go there.

(Getting hopeful we will manage to get to ours later this year)


Hi  Been reading this thread with interest because we have a house which hasn't been lived in for many years, it has a septic tank and I'm realising that we don't know much (yet) about the right treatments to keep the tank going.

Alan H and Modicasa you both mention WCNet and I will buy some of this next time I'm in Italy.  And Modi we also have a well so I'll make a note to use WCNet if we ever find that the well actually works (future job) :)

But with the WCNet how often do you use it?  We are likely to visit, at most, for around 4 months a year, for approx a month at a time.  Would you use WCNet every month while we are there, or just once a year?

And because the toilets (well everything in the house actually) hadn't been used for so long one of the first things I bought was toilet cleaner.  After reading this thread I'll check the ingredients on what I've bought and make sure it's septic tank friendly. 

Thank you again


"But with the WCNet how often do you use it?"

From memory, (we went onto mains drainage a few years ago), you flush a 'sachet' down the loo about once a month, plus just before you leave the place empty for a time.

By pozzo I meant septic tank - DONT put wcnet in your well if its your drinking water! 

I use it about once a month.  If I have to use chemical in the loo then I chuck a sachet in the day after so rebalance the system.  And put one in when you go.  HOwever  to clean your loo, use things like vinegar and bicarbonate of soda.  

If you have limescale the best thing is a piece of pumice stone - you can get ones on amazon or eBay, and itll clean the loo without scratching the enamel. 


duh to me:)  thank you for this clarification.  You know, I've only ever known a pozzo to be a water well but then I was talking about putting WCNet into the pozzo as well as the toilet and then thought .. hang on, not quite sure about this :)

And as for our water well, it is so far down the list of things to do that we might never find out if it still supplies water :)


Just an update on our trip over.

All very smooth. Face masks on the ferry and at petrol stations.

No stops or Checks at any point. 

Everything seems to be open some very small shops operating a 1 at a time policy.

Have been sitting out for coffees and ice cream most days and except for the waiting staff wearing face masks it all feels very normal.

Apart from the sheer distance, our journey was as smooth as Clueless's was.  Similar route as well, Lille, overnight stay in Belgium, Luxembourg, bit of Germany, bit of France (again), Switzerland, Gottard Tunnel and 2nd overnight at Lake Como.

Petrol in Luxembourg was €1.08, back to €1.35 in northern Italy.

Passenger cars on the ferry seemed to be around 1/3 of capacity though still lots of freight lorries and free meal on DFDS Ferries kept most people happy.  

Masks on constantly in public, both hotels seemed fairly full each night.  Breakfast was served in hotel restaurant in Belgium, served by staff and tables spaced out, hotel in Como gave out fairly decent breakfast boxes to eat in own rooms or take away. 

As for out and about, it seems to be business as usual but with the addition of masks, handwash at the front of almost every shop, and additionally gloves if you want them.


Need a new route now Luxembourg has gone on the Quarantine list

Expect Belgium to go on the list soon.

I will go:-

Calais,  Chalons en Champagne   Vitry le Francais  Nancy, Colmar, into Germany,  Lorach and on to Lucerne.  Then Gotthard Tunnel and into Italy.j 

Hi just wondering about your route, any reason you dont continue down via basel and then gottard tunnel. only asking because thats my route and would allways welcome any improvements.



Hi just wondering about your route, any reason you dont continue down via basel and then gottard tunnel. only asking because thats my route and would allways welcome any improvements.



I avoid Basle  as I've experienced some serious delays there in the past.

By ducking into Germany near Colmar  or Mulhouse onto the autobahn you can turn off before Basle and take the dual carriageway bypassing Lorach straight into Swizerland.  Never been stopped on that route, and I reckon that because of the clear roads it just as quick, if not quicker, than the busy roads through Basle.

Then straight on to Lucerne  and the Gotthard.

From 0400hrs Saturday, France and Netherlands join Luxembourg and Belgium etc on the Quarantine List.   Hope you're back in the UK before then

Thanks for the update. \we are still enjoying Italy at the moment and wont be returning before the deadline.

We are scheduled to come back in about 3 weeks so will have to see what the situation is at that time.

i am thinking of maybe flying the family back and i could drive back on my own but everything is so fluid italy could be on the list by then.



If you drive through Switzerland (Gotthard tunnel) and into Germany (my Lorrach route) and up through Germany to Strasbourg, you could fill up with petrol and food in Germany just before entering France near Strasbourg.  In theory, you could drive non stop through France to Calais  and avoid the quarantine requirements. ( but no toilet stops).

380 miles approx - 6 hrs on motorway?

Good luck

Has another look at the map.

If you drive through Germany as far as Aachan, you only have a 3.5 hour trip (about 210 miles) across France to Calais.  A pretty easy non-stop trip.

Thanks for that. Traveling via Germany is (currently) our plan 

We were near you the other day, went to Mergozzo for lunch ( not the Michelin star restaurant!). Very pretty area.

Would appreciate a heads up if you hear any impending changes to UK quarantine countries. I don't get much UK news whilst working on the house here.

It's a shame if you don't make it over life here is pretty much normal except the masks.