Drainage and Sewers
Overview & General Advice
What can you do?
What can we do?
See frequently asked questions about this subject________________________________________
Drainage and sewage problems fall into two categories: drains and sewers
- drains carry surface water and sewage from one property and will generally be the responsibility of the home owner to maintain
- sewers carry surface water and sewage from more than one property and will generally be maintained by the local water and sewerage company. Within the South Staffordshire area the relevant company is, Severn Trent Water
If you've been flooded, you can find advice in our FAQ section.
If your drain is blocked you'll usually know because your waste will stop going away when you flush the toilet, or gullies outside will overflow. There will also most likely be an associate smell.
The owners of a house are solely responsible for maintaining a private drain, clearing blockages and repairing any faults in it. If the blockage occurs in the public sewerage system, then it's the responsibility of the water and sewerage company to fix it.
What you can do?
If you are being affected by an issue with a neighbour's drain we always recommend that you try to resolve the problem informally first, before you contact us. We find most issues can be resolved informally without the need for our involvement.
You should contact your neighbour and explain politely what it is that you're being troubled by, so that they can resolve the problem if it exists in their drainage system. Try to explain calmly how and why the issue is affecting you.
If blockages or defects occur in the public sewer system, then you should contact your local water and sewerage company:
- Severn Trent Water on FREEFONE 0800 783 4444.
Household insurance may cover the costs of any such works. If repairs are required you should let your insurance company know as soon as possible.
What can we do?
If a blockage or defect occurs in a drain or private sewer (e.g. a septic tank) and speaking to the person causing the issue hasn't resolved the problem, you can contact us to explain what the issues are and how they are affecting you. We aim to resolve issues quickly and so we will contact the person alleged to be causing the issue to discuss and try to agree a solution informally.
We find that most issues can be resolved informally, however the council can potentially take further formal action if it is felt necessary once other options have been explored.
Frequently asked questions
What type of drain is it?
There is an important distinction between drains and sewers:
a 'drain' is a pipe which carries foul and/or surface water from one property
a 'sewer' is a pipe which carries foul and/or surface water from more than one property; thus when two drains join, the pipe becomes a sewer
a 'lateral drain' is that part of a drain which serves a single property but which lies outside that property's curtilage, i.e the land immediately surrounding it
a 'pumping station' means that part of a sewer or lateral drain which includes the rising main (the pressurised pipe that connects the pumping station with the rest of the sewer or lateral drain)
Who is responsible for the different types of drain?
Owners of a house are responsible for maintaining a private drain, clearing blockages and repairing any faults. However, they are only able to commission work within the private drain, they cannot commission work within a lateral drain without first contacting their water and sewerage companies for confirmation on how to proceed.
Most sewers and lateral drains which connect to the public sewer system are the responsibility of the water and sewerage companies, they are responsible for the maintenance of these sewers and lateral drains and you should contact them if blockages or defects occur in this type of drain or sewer.
Sewers and drains that do no connect to a public sewer, because, for example, they drain into a septic tank, are the responsibility of the owner of the house. These are referred to as private sewers and drains
How can I prevent drainage problems on my property?
- check there is no loose brickwork in manhole chambers - loose bricks may fall and block the system
- don't extend a house over the line of drainage pipes or manholes without taking specialist advice
- seek Building Control advice when changing underground drainage
- don't pour anything into the drains that will solidify and block them e.g fat, plaster, or cement
- don't discharge toxic and flammable chemicals such as oil, petrol, paraffin, etc. into the drains
- don't try to clear blockages with anything apart from proper drainage rods. Lengths of timber, garden canes etc. are not suitable and may cause further problems
- don't put items such as paper towels, disposable nappies, incontinence pads etc. down the drains
- check where drains and sewers are before planting trees or large shrubs as the roots can penetrate the pipes and cause a major obstruction
- when plumbing in an automatic washing machine or other appliance, make sure it discharges into the foul drains
How should flooding from sewage be cleaned up?
remove excess liquid (pumping/sweeping, as appropriate)
remove any sewage debris/faecal contamination
leave the contaminated area to dry
apply a mild disinfectant (powerful disinfectants, such as strong bleach, are not necessary and may be harmful to surfaces)
Disinfection should remove all bacteria within 24-48 hours
I've been flooded - will the electrics be safe in the house?
If any electrical circuit or equipment has been immersed you'll need to ensure that the system is safe before using any appliances/equipment. It is best to use a qualified electrician to do this
What do I need to do to prevent flooding contamination in my house/garden?
The following simple rules should be followed:
- don't wipe over the disinfected areas, as this will reduce the effectiveness of the disinfectant
- where possible windows should be opened to remove disinfectant odours
- don't turn your heating up to dry the property during the first 48 hours as higher room temperatures may prolong the life of the bacteria
- don't attempt to dig or rake the affected area. This will spread the contamination further into the soil or turf, where lack of sunlight and damp conditions will enhance the life of the bacteria
- you shouldn't attempt to hose the garden down as this will saturate the ground and prolong the life of the bacteria
What to do after you've cleaned up
If you need to enter the affected rooms within 48 hours after the initial clean up adopt normal basic hygiene precautions, such as not touching your mouth, and washing your hands well afterwards.
After 48 hours the bacteria in your home should have reverted to the normal background levels.
In gardens the best treatment is to allow nature to take its course. As most contaminants will be near the surface they will have the maximum exposure to the sunlight's ultra violet (UV) radiation which is very effective in killing bacteria.
It is not necessary to use disinfectant on your garden, as this may kill plants and do more harm than good. However, if you feel this would give you extra reassurance then a mild disinfectant can be applied.
Hard surfaces such as paths and drives can be cleaned and disinfected. We suggest that you keep off the area for up to three hours to give the disinfectant time to work.