Sewer Problems!

Sewer Problems

Sewage leaks across the UK are on the rise, creating both demand for drainage engineers and concerning pollution and health hazards for UK households. Sewer flooding occurs when heavy rainfall overwhelms wastewater systems, causing foul water to overflow, typically from manholes.

A key issue contributing to this problem in the UK is the connection of wastewater run-off drainage to foul water sewer systems. During periods of intense rainfall, this exacerbates flooding issues by causing the foul water sewer system to overflow, posing health risks and spreading pollution, often affecting private properties and gardens.

Between April 2022 and March 2023, there were 47,000 incidents of foul waste overflowing onto private land and gardens in England and Wales alone. Additionally, numerous unrecorded incidents on public land further compound the problem, falling under the responsibility of water companies.

Even when waste and foul water pipes are connected separately, inadequate maintenance of sewer systems can lead to rainwater infiltration, overwhelming the system and causing sewer flooding. This underscores the importance of regular cleaning, maintenance, repair, and replacement of sewer pipes.

Experts argue that a change in policy and substantial investment are needed to significantly increase sewer capacity, preventing sewer flooding and spills. The aging UK sewer system, coupled with the increasing strain from population growth and climate change-induced heavy rainfall, compounds the challenge.

Blame for this issue is often directed at water companies, accused of neglecting the maintenance of the sewer system. Without intervention, the problem is expected to worsen.

While increased demand for drainage services is inevitable, it also raises accountability concerns, as sewage companies may be held responsible for subsequent sewage backups.

Increased media attention to this issue highlights the importance of drainage engineers and emphasizes that despite being unseen, drainage systems are vital components of infrastructure, comparable to electrical and gas utilities.

Public perception of drainage systems is evolving, spurred by the rising instances of sewer flooding and its devastating impacts on human life. This shift underscores the urgency of addressing the challenges facing the UK sewer system.

Wet wipes will block your drainage system

Drainage problems caused by wet wipes

The issue with wet wipes in drains is a growing concern that impacts drainage systems and the overall environment. Despite their convenience, wet wipes, often marketed as “flushable,” can cause significant problems when flushed down toilets and end up in drainage systems. Here’s why they pose a problem:

  1. Non-Biodegradability:

Wet wipes are typically made from synthetic materials like polyester or polypropylene, which do not break down easily in water. Unlike toilet paper, which disintegrates rapidly, wet wipes can persist in the sewer system for a long time, contributing to clogs and blockages.

  1. Clogging Drains:

When flushed, wet wipes can accumulate and clump together in pipes, creating blockages. These blockages not only affect individual households but can lead to larger issues in municipal sewer systems, causing backups and overflows.

  1. Impact on Sewer Infrastructure:

Wet wipes have been known to combine with other debris, grease, and materials in the sewer, forming large, solid masses known as “fatbergs.” These fatbergs can obstruct sewers and require expensive and time-consuming efforts to remove, posing a significant challenge to sewer infrastructure.

  1. Environmental Consequences:

When wet wipes contribute to blockages, the resulting sewer overflows can release pollutants into local water bodies, negatively impacting aquatic ecosystems. The persistence of non-biodegradable materials in the environment raises concerns about long-term ecological effects.

  1. Misleading Labelling:

The term “flushable” on wet wipe packaging can be misleading. While they may technically flush down the toilet, the materials do not disintegrate quickly, causing problems further down the sewer line.


To prevent issues with wet wipes in drains:

Dispose of wet wipes in the trash rather than flushing them.

Use trash bins with lids in bathrooms to encourage proper disposal.

Educate occupants and businesses about the impact of wet wipes on drains and the environment.

Save yourself from the expense of blocked drains – don’t flush it, bin it.

Frozen pipes – easy guide to thawing

  1. Locate your stop tap, typically under the kitchen sink, garage, or cellar, and turn it clockwise to shut off water supply.
  2. Open the cold tap in your kitchen to relieve pressure and help identify the frozen pipe.
  3. If you have no water, a frozen pipe may be the culprit, often outside or near the stop tap.
  4. Thaw the pipe using a warm towel or a hairdryer in short bursts. Keep a safe distance and avoid contact with water. A hot water bottle can also help, depending on the pipe size and freeze severity.
  5. Avoid using a blowtorch or open flame, as it may cause more damage.
  6. Turn the stop tap back on to check if water is flowing. Look for any signs of burst pipes in your home.
  7. If you discover burst pipes, turn off at the stop tap and call a plumber immediately.
  8. If water doesn’t return, consult your home insurance for frozen pipe coverage or call a plumber

Shared Drainage Responsibility

Shared drainage responsibilities is a common question we receive from our clients at Drain Brains. There are many pipes, drains, and sewers hidden from the sight of your home and buried under most properties. Just because you can’t see them it doesn’t mean they’re not there, their upkeep could be your responsibility, your neighbours or your local water authority’s (happy days). How do you find out what’s there and whos responsibility they are?

Your responsibilities for isolated/non-shared drainage): The pipes, gutters and drains in and around your home, this also includes the drains from your property all the way to the neighbouring boundaries.  There will often be a company maintained manhole at that point depending on the property type. Drain Brains can assist with your sewage problems and help in the event of blockages.


I live in an apartment, what are my shared drainage responsibilities?

Do you have a blocked drain near or contained inside your flat/apartment block? Although it might be causing an issue for you right now you won’t have to worry about any unsuspected costs in the days to come. Although you and your neighbours share drainage in some capacity, you do not share drainage responsibility. Unless your tenancy states otherwise, the management company for your building are responsible for all drains up to the property boundary (purple) and the local water authority for drains beyond that (red).


shared drainage

I live in a detached house, do I have any shared drainage responsibilities?

Always check the property paperwork but normally if you reside in a detached newly built house then your property will not share drains with the rest of your neighbours. You as the homeowner will be responsible for your drainage to the property boundary (where the purple line meets below). The main sewer and lateral drains(red) are taken care of by the local water authority. If you do have a problem before you hit the boundary then Drains Brains can help to provide you live in the Merseyside and Cheshire area. For more information visit our homepage and navigate to the correct service.


I live in a terraced/semi-detached houses, what are my shared drainage responsibilities?

You are only responsible for the drain on your property that is not shared (purple). Normally this drain will be found in very close proximity to your property however if you’re still unsure if you are sharing your drain then read on for a tip to find out for sure. If you have a drain that is shared with your neighbour, the water authority will be responsible for the shared drain as well as the lateral drains (red).


What is a lateral drain?

Lateral drains are pipes which carry wastewater away in the public drain away from your property. Lateral drains are found outside the boundary of your property and are often under a public footpath or road. Before a change in law (2011), a lateral drain was the individual/shared drainage responsibility of the homeowner/block of houses however, it is now down to the local water authority.


How can you tell (for sure) if you have shared drains?

If you’re still unsure how to tell if you’re sharing drains with someone else then call your local water authority at United Utilities and they will be able to advise whether your blocked drain is a shared drain. If your drain is shared and it’s a problem with the main sewer/lateral drains then a repairman will book a date to visit the area, however, if it isn’t you’ll need to contact a local drainage service provider. If you live on the Wirral, in Merseyside or Cheshire then Drain Brains can help you.


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What to do if your drain is blocked.

If you’ve noticed that there seems to be a blockage in your plumbing, you might be wondering who to call. Do you just call a plumber? Do you call the council? Can you handle it yourself?

Handling it yourself

If the problem is a simple one, then you might be able to handle it yourself by cleaning your drains and making sure they’re free of debris.

Clogged hair is one of the common causes of a drain blockage which is something you can quickly sort yourself. If you can’t see anything blocking the drain then you could use a chemical cleaner to try and clear whatever’s in the pipe. If you want to avoid chemical cleaners, there are some more natural options like using baking soda and vinegar.

If the problem doesn’t seem to be going away, then the next step would be to contact the relevant people who can help you fix it.

Larger problems

If you can’t seem to fix the blockage it may indicate a larger problem. You may be wondering who to call first. Do you call a plumber or the council?

In order to determine who’s responsible, it’s important to note the differences between drains and sewers first of all.

A drain is a pipe that drains water and waste from your house and sits within your property boundaries. A lateral drain a pipe which carries wastewater away from your house. It’s typically outside your property boundary, usually under public ground.

A sewer is a pipe that collects water and waste from the drains of a number of buildings. Most of these are publicly owned and will be maintained by your local water company.

Who’s responsible?

If you own your property, you will be responsible for maintaining drains within the boundaries of your property so you’ll have to pay for any repairs. If you rent, your landlord will be. This is where insurance that covers plumbing comes in handy.

If there’s a problem with a lateral drain or a sewer, most of these are maintained by local water companies now so you’ll have to get in contact with them. If it’s a private sewer and you own the property, then it’ll be your responsibility.

If you’re unsure who’s liable you’ll need to check the deeds of your property and also contact your local water company. You can report a blocked drain to the council through the government’s website here.

Maintaining your drains

Prevention is better than having to fix the same problem over and over again. There are some steps you can take to ensure your drains are squeaky clean.

Make sure you’re cleaning your drains on a regular basis by removing hair blocking the drain and by using a chemical cleaner to ensure the drains are free of debris. Try to get into the habit of doing this whenever you clean the bathroom if you don’t already.

In the future, make sure you’re not flushing anything down toilets that could lead to a blocked drain including wet wipes and sanitary products.

Many people pour oil into the sink which can become a big problem when it solidifies in the drain. Just look at what’s happened in London with the underground “fatbergs”. They are a combined effort of flushing stuff that shouldn’t be flushed and draining fat in the sink. A blockage could lead to burst pipes or sewage leaks, both of which are more complicated (and unpleasant) fixes.


If you need help fixing a blocked drain or to find out the location of the problem, then you can give us a call on 0151 522 0736.

Dropped something down the drain? Here’s what to do!

Oops you’ve just dropped something in the drain. It’s a common occurrence but we never expect it to happen to us.

After the initial panic sets in it’s time to plan what to do next. In many cases you will be able to get your treasured item back easier than you thought. It first of all depends on where you’ve dropped it.

Drains in the street

The most common things dropped down street drains are mobiles and car keys, pretty important items you can’t simply walk away from.

As it’s a public drain, the situation is a little trickier. Your instinct will probably be to try and squeeze your arm through the bars but far too many people get stuck in this way and the whole thing becomes embarrassing as well as inconvenient.

Your best move is to phone the local council or water authority in your area to tell them about the problem as that’s who the drains will belong to. They will have to come out and help you to retrieve lost items but they’ll usually charge you for it. As your missing phone isn’t at the top of their priority list, you may also have to wait a while.

Sink plughole

It’s an easy mistake to make, you take off some jewellery in front of the bathroom mirror and the thing ends up rolling down the drain before you know it.

You may be able to use a magnet if the distance between the plughole and the bottom of the u-bend is short. You can do this by dangling a small magnet on a string to try and catch the item, but only if the item is magnetic.

This might work but most of the time you’ll have to take the pipe work apart to find it. Luckily it’s easier than it sounds. Just follow these steps:

  1. Turn your water off

This step is essential as you don’t want the item to be washed away. As soon as you drop it, turn the water off.

  1. Get a bucket

Before taking the drain apart place a bucket beneath to catch excess water still in the pipe. This could also be used to catch the lost item if it falls out.

  1. Dismantle the pipe

Your lost item will most likely be in the pipe’s U-bend so start by loosening the nuts holding this in place. You may need some tools like pliers but be careful not to damage the pipes.

Once it’s free you’ll find a lot of sludge in the pipe that you can tip into the bucket. Now’s the time to begin your search (get some rubber gloves).

  1. Put the drain back together

Now is time to put everything back where it should be. A word of warning, keep a track of how you’re taking the drain apart so you remember how to put it back together again. Make sure you tighten the nuts and check for any leaks when you run the tap.

Why you should do drain maintenance during summer?

Drain maintenance is probably the last thing you want to think about when the sun is shining, especially after a long, harsh winter.

While drains are prone to damage during the winter, they can be in the summer too, especially if issues caused by cold weather haven’t been looked at in months.

Left untreated, drainage problems can cause a lot of long term damage to your home or business property.

Getting drains looked at on a regular basis allows you to sort problems before they turn into larger ones that could cause a lot of disruption at your home or business.

It’s also a cost effective practice as you could avoid forking out for expensive repairs you’d need if problems had been left to develop.

Strange smells

Hotter weather can make unpleasant smells more overpowering. The summer months are the most likely time to have problems with smelly drains. The hot weather means that bacteria and mould are given the perfect breeding ground to become a real problem for your pipes.

That’s why a thorough and regular cleaning of your drains is so important, before they turn into blockages that could cause your pipes to get damaged.

Get the job done quicker

Doing drain maintenance in the summer or spring means that there will be fewer disruptions in the form of bad weather spells. That means you can get the job done quickly and then spend the rest of the day sitting off in the sun.

Clean your drains

To clean your drains you can use cleaning products from shops, although some of them are pretty harsh and could potentially do more harm than good. Natural methods such as using baking soda and vinegar might be better for shifting drain blockages. Alternatively, you could hire professionals who will use the best products for your pipes.

Get a professional to handle it

If you want to ensure your drains are thoroughly cleaned and working well, then hiring a professional might be your best bet.

If you’ve never had your drains cleaned before, you could have a larger problem that is best left to a professional. If you know there are leaks in your system or blockages you can’t handle with a simple cleaning solution, then a professional will be able to pinpoint where the damage is and fix it for you.

Get Drain Brains to help

At Drain Brains we specialise in maintaining drains to keep them clear and working correctly. We provide drain clearance, CCTV drainage surveys to help you identify the problem, property surveys and replacements for badly damaged drains. Get in touch via 0151 522 0736 for a fast response and professional service.

Water company bosses were paid £58M over last five years

It has been branded a “national scandal”. Bosses of privatised water companies in the UK have been criticised for receiving £58 million in pay and benefits over the past five years. Meanwhile customers have faced rate rises above inflation on their water bills.

Household bill rises

According to a National Audit Office report, water bills have risen by 40% above inflation since the industry was privatised in 1989.

Water UK, the trade body that represents water and sewerage companies revealed that average water bills will be £405 this year, a 2% increase from last year.

The public ownership debate

This follows many calls for bringing water companies back into public ownership.

Bosses have been labelled “fat cats” by the GMB union for earning “staggering sums”. Tim Roache, GMB’s general secretary has since launched a campaign to get the water industry back under public ownership.

“It’s a national scandal that over the last five years England’s hard-pressed water customers have been forced to splash out £58m through their bills to go into the pockets of just nine individuals.

“Privatisation of the water industry has been a costly mistake and these eye-watering sums are further proof the water industry must be returned to public hands.

“The GMB is urging people and politicians to Take Back the Tap and make our water services work for the many and not the few.”

Executive pay

Nine bosses of water companies were paid £11.3 million last year, with the average pay being £1,254,000 in 2017.

Liv Garfield, chief executive of Severn Trent was paid £2.45 million last year, a 50% increase since 2013. This makes her the UK’s top paid water company boss. This was in the form of a £674,000 salary, a £615,000 bonus, shares worth £975,000, pension contributions of £168,000 and benefits worth £18,000.

Severn Trent released a statement saying: “Our priority is to perform for our customers, and our performance on those measures that matter most to our customers, such as preventing sewer flooding, has been strong. Executive pay is based on a range of challenging performance targets and is in line with pay at companies of a similar size.”

Similarly, Steve Mogford, United Utilities chief executive was paid £2.3 million, an increase of 49% since 2013. United Utilities said: “The vast majority of Steve Mogford’s remuneration is linked to the delivery of stretching targets aimed at further improving customer service, operation delivery and environmental performance.”

They went on further to highlight that “In 2017, his total remuneration was approximately half the average for a FTSE 100 CEO.” However, that’s not likely to be any comfort to the average bill payer who has seen the price of water and energy steadily rise over the past few years.

Ofwat has said that water company failings left 200,000 households in England and Wales without water during the “beast from the east” snow storms earlier this year.

Snow and strong winds in February and March this year caused disruption all over the UK. Many of the problems people faced were when temperatures rose and thawed ice caused flooding.

Ofwat said that many water companies in the north of England were well prepared and that it was only those in the south that were slow to react. They said: “Severn Trent and United Utilities share a border and faced similar weather conditions but their customers had extremely different experiences.”

Rachel Fletcher, chief executive of Ofwat told four of the main water companies including Thames Water, Southern Water, South East Water and Severn Trent, that customers had been badly let down.

Fletcher said: “Many customers were effectively left to fend for themselves, with local bodies and volunteers having to fill the gap.”

She added that there had been “radio silence on what was happening, [with] businesses shut down and customers forced to make long journeys to pick up bottled water”.


Poor performance

The four worst performing companies have been ordered to produce a review of their emergency planning by September so the same thing doesn’t happen again.

Consumer Council for Water have said that almost three-quarters of customers affected didn’t receive alternative water supplies. Many high-priority cases such as schools and emergency services received little or no communication at the time.

While the “beast from the east” has been deemed a one-off event, the weather was not unprecedented.

“The freeze and rapid thaw earlier this year was forecast and was not unprecedented. A number of water companies showed what can be done to serve customers in the face of bad weather. But too many companies were caught off-guard and let people down, causing real hardship as a result. Our report shows there is no excuse for this level of failure,” Fletcher said in a statement.


Inadequate pay outs

The compensation pay out totalled £7 million. However, Ofwat has said that households could be owed much high compensation pay outs than previously promised.

They said that compensations pay outs were inadequate to cover the experiences that some customers went through.

“We are concerned that the current compensation arrangements – the guaranteed standard scheme – are not reflective of the impact on customers of being without water for a prolonged period. We intend to launch a consultation by the end of July 2018 with a view to making proposals to revise the GSS.”

Michael Roberts from Water UK, representative of the water companies said:

“The impact varied across the country, with Ofwat saying that fewer than 3% of all customers were affected. But we’re sorry to say that in some areas significant numbers of customers experienced disruption and hardship, and we are determined to prevent this happening again in future.”

How to fix smelly drains | Top tips for 2020

Dodgy smells from your drains is a common enough problem, especially in the summer. Your first instinct may be to ignore it or call a plumber but there are some things you can do to fix the problem yourself. If any of these don’t work, then a plumber or drainage expert might be the next step.

Common causes

Bad odours from drains are often caused by a build-up of food rotting in the pipes. Other debris can get caught if the drain is clogged with hair, which is the number one cause of shower blockages.

Flush the pipes

You may be able to solve the problem and dislodge any blockages by simply pouring a couple of litres of boiling water down the drain. Do this, followed by some cold water and then pour more boiling water to get rid of the remaining debris.

White vinegar

White vinegar is a great cleaning product for those who would rather not use harsh chemicals. Try boiling a bottle of white vinegar and pouring half down the drain. Rinse this with cold water and then pour the rest of the vinegar down the drain. This can help solve blockages and remove nasty smells.

Baking soda

Baking soda is another simple solution to drain blockages. Try putting water and baking soda down the drain followed by vinegar. It’ll start to fizz up as it gets to work. Come back half an hour later and flush the whole thing with boiling water.

Prevention is best

The best way to solve drain problems is to prevent them from happening in the first place. That means regular drain maintenance like flushing with boiling water and vinegar. It only takes a few moments every few months or so and will keep your drains squeaky clean and odour free.

If these methods do not solve the problem, it might be something a drainage expert needs to take a look at. At Drain Brains we can inspect your drains, diagnose the problem and get to work on fixing it in no time. Give us a call on 0151 522 0736 for those in the Wirral area and 01244 455 354 for Chester.