I have a question

Do I have a misconnection?

  • I've been told that part of my property's drainage is connected to the wrong sewer. What does this mean?

    Many houses have two separate sewers:

    • The foul sewer takes waste water - dirty water - from toilets, bathrooms and kitchens to sewage works for treatment.
    • The surface water sewer takes rainwater - clean water - from the roof and conveys it to a local river, stream or beach.

    If your property has waste water pipes discharging to a surface water sewer intended for rainwater only, it will cause pollution.  This is known as a misconnection and you need to put it right.

  • Who’s responsible for correcting a misconnection?

    If you own the property, you are responsible, even if the misconnection was made by a previous owner. The survey undertaken at the time of your purchase would probably not have identified this problem unless you specifically asked for a full drainage survey. So you could try to contact the previous owners to see if they would be willing to accept responsibility but this would be a civil matter and ultimately is the owner’s responsibility.

    If you rent the property, you should contact the landlord who’s responsible for putting it right. This may be the local council, housing association or a private landlord.

    Since October 2011 water companies have taken over the ownership of private sewers. This means you are responsible for the drains from your property up to the point they combine with drains from a neighbouring property.  After this point, they are the responsibility of your water company. The diagram below explains this. This means that many below-ground misconnections are now the responsibility of your water company to correct.

    Contact your water company or a WaterSafe plumber if you need help to understand the drainage from your property.

  • The drainage has been like this for years. Why has this problem not been found before?

    Water companies, environmental regulators or members of the public can find and report pollution at any time. The discharge may have been occurring intermittently over a long period but might not have been previously seen, reported and then investigated.

  • I had planning permission/Building Regulations approval for my extension and the building inspector inspected the drainage. Why was the fault not found then?

    The building inspector will have inspected and approved the drainage but may not have confirmed that the new pipe work connects to the correct sewer pipe. You need to pursue this directly with whoever approved the drainage. 

  • This is only water from a washing machine/sink. Why is it a problem?

    A washing machine discharges about 150 litres of dirty water containing detergents and other chemicals each time it’s used. Kitchen sink waste water also contains detergents and food waste.  When this waste water enters a river, stream or beach, it causes pollution, damaging plants and wildlife. 

  • Is my house the only one causing a problem?

    It’s likely that there’s more than one property contributing to the pollution which, when combined, have a bigger impact.

  • I’m connected to a septic tank or private sewage treatment facility. Does the advice apply to me?

    Yes.  The effective operation of septic tanks and other private sewage treatment plants is compromised by discharges of rainwater. Rainwater outlets from the property should always discharge to a river, stream or to groundwater, perhaps through a soakaway.

    Any misconnections that you identify through the use of this site are likely to indicate either a rainwater outlet that’s incorrectly connected to your septic tank or wastewater that’s illegally polluting the environment.

  • If I don’t do the work, will I be prosecuted?

    Legal action can be taken. Initially, authorities usually prefer to work with property owners to correct misconnection problems voluntarily. Ultimately you will be served with a notice to correct the drainage and this will incur more costs especially if the authorities have to undertake the work and then recharge you.

    The polluter could also face legal action dependent on the damage to the environment.  A person sentenced by a Magistrate faces a fine not exceeding £50,000 or imprisonment of up to 12 months, or both. In extreme cases in a Crown Court a person faces an unlimited fine or imprisonment of up to 5 years, or both.

How do I fix my misconnection?

  • What do I need to do to correct the drainage?

    This depends on the fault that’s been identified. If the problem was identified by your water company or drainage professional, they should be able to provide advice about how to correct it. This website also tells you how to check for misconnections, how to put them right and where to find a WaterSafe plumber.

  • What are my responsibilities as a homeowner?

    As a homeowner you are responsible for repairing your misconnections and preventing pollution.

  • Will my building/drainage insurance rectify my misconnected drainage?

    Not normally.  Unfortunately, your insurance usually only covers blocked or defective sewers.

  • How much will this work cost?

    Most above-ground drainage problems such as re-routing above-ground pipework from a sink or a washing machine will cost less than £100. More complex alterations, including below-ground corrections, might cost a lot more. Contact two or three WaterSafe approved plumbers for a quote as prices may vary.

  • Will my water company do the work and allow me to pay by my water bill?

    No, your water company won’t undertake work on your private drainage.

  • Will my property insurance rectify my misconnected drainage?

    Not normally as your insurance usually only covers blocked or defective sewers.

  • I can’t afford to have the work done. What can I do?

    If you’ve received a letter from your water company, environmental regulator or local authority about a misconnection, contact them to help find a solution.

  • I’ve been told that the sewer pipe may be cracked below ground. What should I do?

    Usually below-ground sewer pipes are the responsibility of water companies but for private drainage you should contact your property insurers.  The sewer may require a CCTV inspection to confirm the fault.  The costs should be shared between the owners of all properties that are connected to the private sewer.