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Drains and sewers are not the same as gullies or grids that can be found in the road to take water off the highway.
Here are some explanations of words used in the following pages:
- Drain – A single pipeline, which conveys foul sewerage and/or surface water run off from a single property. A drain is still a drain even if it goes past the boundary of your property until it joins a sewer.
- Sewer – A pipeline, which normally conveys foul sewage and/or surface water run off from more than one property. Sewers may either be public or private.
- Public Sewer – A sewer, which has been adopted as a public sewer or was in use before the 1st October 1937 and is therefore the responsibility of the Statutory Undertaker.
- Private Sewer – A sewer, which is not a public sewer. A private sewer is normally the responsibility of the owner/s of the property, which it serves. It may still be a private sewer under the public highway until it joins the public sewer.
- Statutory Undertaker – This is the water and sewerage company. In Monmouthshire this is Welsh Water.
- Highway Gullies and road grids – These are not the some as sewers and drains and problems with them must be made to the Highways Department.
If your drain is blocked you will usually know because your waste will stop going away when you flush the toilet, or gullies outside will overflow. There will also probably be a smell. Private drains/sewers are the responsibility of the owner-occupier and any other properties connected to it.
Drains may block because:
- they are in poor physical condition and normal contents are not being cleared
- they are in satisfactory condition but have been abused by flushing away disposable nappies or other items such as plastic bags that should never be placed into the sewerage system
- they are used for excessive disposal of cooking fats and oils, along with other domestic products and DIY materials such as plaster
- tree roots have entered a broken drain
Responsibility for drainage
You should report any drainage problems to the person or organisation responsible for the drain/sewer that is blocked.
If several properties are affected, it’s likely that the problem is in the sewer (the ‘shared’ drainage pipe). The following will help you work out if the problem is on a public or private sewer and who is responsible.
If the property is built before 1st October 1937, and so long as there are two or more properties connected to the length of drain/sewer affected, it is the responsibility of Welsh Water to clear.
For properties built after 1st October 1937, all drains/sewers are the responsibility of the owner/occupier and any other properties connected to it, unless it is the main sewer.
Welsh Water also looks after the network of public sewers in Monmouthshire. If you live in Monmouthshire and have a sewer problem, please contact Kelda on 0800 085 3968.
If a single property is affected it is likely that it is a private drain and it is the responsibility of the owner/occupier to maintain and clear. If the property is rented (e.g. from a Housing Association) then it is the landlord’s responsibility.
For problems with road gullies and land drainage please contact the highways department.
What do I do if I am responsible for a blocked drain?
If you’re sure that it’s only your house that’s affected you think you are the person responsible for the drain, you’ll need to contact a drain clearing specialist. They usually try to clear the blockage first by using a high pressure water jet. If you’re not sure if it’s only your drain that’s blocked, try speaking to your neighbours and see if they are having similar problems. If you are still not sure if it is just your property contact your local environmental health office.
Choosing a specialist contractor
We can not give advice on which contractor to use You can find contractors in Yellow Pages, Thompsons or other trade directories under “drainage and pipe cleaning”. Ask before they visit if there is a call out charge, and what that charge is likely to be. Many blockages can be cleared by rodding or high pressure jetting. If the contractors can’t clear the blockage, and tell you they need to dig up the pipe, make sure they tell you exactly what they are going to do and how much it will cost before they start work.
Will my building insurance cover any costs?
Drain or sewer problems may be covered for insurance purposes, but check with your building insurance company before you call a contractor.
My neighbours are also affected but I’m having problems with them. What should I do?
My neighbours are affected but some won’t agree to pay or I can’t contact them or we don’t know which houses are connected to the private drain. What shall I do?
Ring the environmental health team. We have powers to enforce the clearing of a drain or sewer. It may be necessary to arrange to clear the blockage and recover the cost from the householders involved. This makes the situation a lot more formal and costly to everyone involved as the council’s expenses will be added to the bill. So it’s better for households to resolve the work themselves.
How to avoid blocked drains
Please do not dispose of fat or grease, waste oil, paint residue and cement washings etc into your drains. These and similar materials should be disposed of at your local amenity site.
Do not plant trees or shrubs close to your drains as roots will enter the drains at pipe joints and will eventually cause major damage.
Don’t put fat or oil into your drainage system. Use kitchen paper towels to mop-up fats and oils from your cooking utensils and use the bin. Then use plenty of detergent and hot water on your utensils.
- Never put nappies, incontinence pads or sanitary towels down the loo.
- Never allow rubble, children’s toys or other objects to fall into an inspection chamber.
- Never hide an inspection chamber.
- Check that your inspection covers are accessible and in good condition.
Enforcement of statutory drainage legislation
We have a statutory duty, in the interests of public health, to ensure that blocked / foul smelling private drains are cleared and, where appropriate, to recharge the householders for this service. Any recharge is divided equally to all households feeding into the sewer up to the point that it is blocked and follows the serving of a notice.
The Council may become involved if…
Private households being served by a drain and/or private sewers are unable or unwilling adequately to deal with the problem. In these cases we are able to serve a Legal Notice requiring the work to be done. The work may be done by the Council in default of the owners. However this will be subject to an administration charge and it will normally be more economical for the owners to agree amongst themselves to arrange for the works to be carried out.
Access is not possible or denied onto a property to investigate the situation. An Authorised Officer of the council may enter the property at any reasonable time to assess the extent of the problem.
We have reason to believe that a risk to public health exists and it is unlikely that the person(s) responsible will be able or willing to carry out necessary works.
We have a number of options for service of notice in respect of private drains and sewers using Public Health Acts, The Building Act and other provisions, but legal action is complicated and can involve extra expense and delay. Legal action should not be necessary where owners are aware of their shared ownership and clearance and repair will be quicker and cheaper if they can agree to have works carried out and share costs fairly amongst themselves.