Sewers and Drains

Water sewerage companies in England and Wales now take responsibility for the maintenance and repair of shared sewer pipes. This change took place on 1 October 2011. The change means you are now 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 United Utilities’ responsibility. The new rules will stop you being charged for costly repairs for issues that aren’t your fault.

As well as the private drains serving a single home or business within the boundary of the property, there are a few other types of pipes that are not covered by the Regulations and will remain the responsibility of the current owners after 1 October 2011. 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 (external link)

After 1 October 2011, if you have a problem related to the above you should contact United Utilities on 0845 602 0406.

In addition, if you have a query regarding the status of your drainage go to (external link)

The Private Sewers section is extremely useful and has an ‘Explain-a-drain’ (external link) tool which enables individuals to easily check what is applicable to their property.

What are the main types of drainage?

A drain collects foul water (from sinks, baths, toilets, washing machines etc) or surface water (rainwater) from land and buildings within a single boundary. A drain can flow under another property’s boundary (known as a lateral drain), a pavement or a highway until it reaches a sewer.

Private sewers are sewers built after 1937 that have not been adopted by the utility company. The difference between a drain and a private sewer is that a private sewer joins drains from two or more properties together. Most sewers built before 1937 or those adopted by the utility companies are public sewers. United Utilities will be able to tell you if your sewer has been adopted. Some public sewers are found within the boundary of private properties depending on when the sewer and the property were built.

A road gully is a chamber covered with a metal grate or grill at the edge of a highway. It collects and drains water from the highway. Road gullies are the responsibility of Cumbria County Council.

Non-mains drainage

Non-mains drainage is mainly found in rural areas of Allerdale.

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.

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 (external link).

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0303 123 1702

Allerdale Borough Council
Allerdale House, Workington, Cumbria,
CA14 3YJ