Sewage and drainage

The different types of drainage and the responsibilities of property owners.

Water sewerage companies in England and Wales have responsibility for the maintenance and repair of shared sewer pipes.

That means you are only responsible for the drainage pipe which serves your own property.

Sewer pipes which are shared by more than one property, or run beyond your property boundary, are the responsibility of United Utilities.

If you have a problem related to these pipes you should contact United Utilities.

As well as the private drains serving a single home or business within the boundary of the property, there are some other pipes that remain the responsibility of the current owners.

These are:    

  • Water supply pipes within your property boundary
  • Existing surface water sewers that drain directly to watercourses
  • Privately owned sewage treatment works and pipes connected to them
  • Privately owned septic tanks and cesspits (including all associated pipes even if serving more than one property)
  • Private pumping stations.

If you think there is a danger to the environment or human health, you can contact our Environmental Protection team.

Non-mains drainage

Non-mains drainage is mainly found in rural areas and can be in the form a cesspool or septic tank.

What is a cesspool?

A cesspool is a watertight underground tank with a minimum capacity of 18,000 litres.

Older cesspools are lined with brick or concrete, and more modern ones with plastics, polythene or steel.

Foul water is stored until the time of disposal. 

A cesspool must be pumped out or otherwise emptied by a competent contractor. It is an offence for anyone other than a competent contractor to do this.

What is a septic tank?

A septic tank is effectively a mini-sewerage system.

Sewage is stored in a watertight tank where bacteria break down solid matter to one third of its original volume. Settled solids are retained and a clear liquid flows out via land drainage.

Installing a new septic tank requires permission from Building Control and a consent to discharge from the Environment Agency.

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