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The Difference between Drains and Sewers

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    When you run a tap, turn on the washing machine or flush the toilet, you probably don’t give a great deal of thought to where the wastewater goes or what ultimately happens to it. Drains and sewers are out of sight and usually out of mind. They’re part of a vital subterranean pipe network serving UK homes and businesses – and yet, understandably, many people would struggle to explain the difference between them or who’s responsible for them.

    However, when you consider the fact that everyone relies on drains and sewers, they help to ensure homes and workplaces remain healthy environments, and your property is connected to them, the idea of familiarising yourself with them becomes more compelling.

    With decades of experience in drain unblocking, drain cleaning and more in Bath, Bristol and beyond, the team here at Mega-Rod is ideally suited to shedding light on the relationship between your property, drains and sewers.

    What Are Drains and Sewers?

    • Drains are pipes that carry wastewater and related material (such as food particles or toilet paper) from buildings towards the sewers. Normally, each drain only serves one property. So your drains are private, and they’re located within your property’s boundaries.
    • Sewers are larger, shared pipes that transport the contents of multiple buildings’ drains to wastewater treatment facilities. (For example, Saltford Water Recycling Centre processes wastewater from the Bath area so it can be safely released into waterways.) Sewers are usually located under roads and public open spaces. The majority are regarded as public pipes.

    (Some drains lead to septic tanks or cesspits, which hold wastewater, instead of sewers, but sewers are more common.)

    It’s also important to be aware of lateral drains. They’re shared pipes connecting drains from more than one building to the sewers. For example, your property and a number of neighbouring properties are likely to be linked by a lateral drain. Lateral drains are typically located beneath pavements and roads, just beyond the boundaries of the properties they serve.

    Who’s Responsible for Maintaining Them?

    Because your drains are effectively part of your property and aren’t used by people in other buildings, you’re responsible for them. That means maintaining and repairing them. If that sounds daunting, don’t worry. At Mega-Rod Bath and Bristol, drains are our area of expertise. For example, if you notice signs of blocked drains, such as frequent backups, you can rely on our rapid response drain unblocking and 24/7 emergency callout services. We use drain jetting and other powerful techniques to get domestic and commercial wastewater flowing again.

    Lateral drains and public sewers aren’t the responsibility of property owners because they serve multiple buildings. They’re owned by regional water and sewerage companies, such as Wessex Water, instead. So if there’s a problem with your local public sewer, say, your water authority needs to resolve it. You’ll normally pay a sewerage charge as part of your water bills to help the company look after lateral drains and public sewers.

    The situation is different, however, if your drains lead to a private sewer. As Citizens Advice points out, your property might be connected to this kind of sewer if it’s among several properties on one site (for example, if you live in an apartment block). A private sewer is jointly owned by the properties’ owners.

    If you’re unsure whether your drains lead to a public or private sewer, you can find the answer in your property deeds or by asking your water and sewerage company. But it’s worth pointing out here that private sewers are uncommon these days. That’s because in 2011 the ownership of many thousands of kilometres of private sewers in England was transferred from property owners to water and sewerage companies to streamline their upkeep. So those private sewers became public.

    Indeed, Mega-Rod was the first local business to become a Wessex Water contractor following this change to private sewers.

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    Sewer Maps and Drainage Plans

    Perhaps you’re planning to develop land you own or build an extension. In situations like this, you’ll want to know exactly where the drains and sewers are.

    Your water and sewerage company can provide local sewer maps, and the council might have drainage plans for your property. But for the most up-to-date picture of your drainage system, you can arrange a CCTV drain survey and/or sonar-powered sonde survey. These surveys, conducted by our experienced team, are an ideal way to map the layout of drains, pinpoint their location, check their depth, and identify issues, such as blockages caused by cooking oil, that we can resolve.

    For all your Bath and Bristol drain maintenance needs, call Mega-Rod today on 01225 422980.


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      Need your drains unblocking? Septic tank need emptying? Need a CCTV Drain Survey? Contact the experts at Mega-Rod on 01225 422980. We offer a prompt, competitive service from a family firm working in Bath, Bristol and the surrounding area.