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Blocked sinks and toilets are really unpleasant. They are usually caused by blocked sewers in or near your home.
You'll need to check who's responsible for what to understand who'll need to be contacted.
There are two types of sewers - private and public.
Private drains and sewers belong to you, the customer. We offer a fixed fee service whereby we will spend up to four hours investigating and clearing a blockage. If the blockage then re-occurs within 14 days we will clear it again for free, unless there is evidence of misuse. Alternatively, you can call a plumber or an independent drain clearing company to help you with this.
Public sewers belong to us, please contact us to let us know if you believe you have a problem with the public sewer serving your property.
There are also public highway drains and gullies, you'll need to contact your local authority to help with this.
There are a few simple steps you can take to help avoid sewer blockages in and around your home.
Two out of every five sewer blockages in our region are caused by sanitary products, and one out of every five are caused by fat, oil and grease. Some of the other worst offenders are items such as cleansing wipes, cotton buds and nappies.
By thinking about what you put down your toilets, sinks and drains, you can help to reduce blockages and decrease the risk of flooding. A blocked sewer is, of course, inconvenient for our customers but if it leads to sewer flooding it can be extremely unpleasant and stressful too.
Don’t pour fats, oils and greases down the sink or the toilet – even the tiniest amount can cause problems. They may be in liquid form going down, but they quickly solidify when they meet the cold sewer walls (even if you use detergent or pour hot water down after). The fats stick to the side of the sewer forming a concrete-like solid that attracts other debris, eventually causing a blockage.
Top tip: Wait for fat to cool after cooking and pour it in to an empty margarine tub, then when it’s full throw it in the bin.
Only human waste, toilet tissue and a small amount of household cleaning products should be flushed down the toilet. Don't flush:
- sanitary products
- kitchen roll
- cleansing wipes
- baby and facial wipes
- cotton buds
Top tip: Instead use nappy or sanitary bags then put them in the bin.
They're private up to the point of your property boundary. When a pipe crosses the property boundary or the section of pipe is shared with another property it then becomes our responsibility.
For more information on sewer responsibilities, see our responsibility for sewer pipes page.
If your home or property has been flooded internally, you'll need to contact your household insurance company as soon as possible (failure to notify insurers will jeopardise any future claims). Depending on your level of insurance, your insurance company will arrange clean up, disinfectant and replacement of any damaged property.
If you've experienced sewage flooding on your property, and you think it's because one of our sewer pipes is blocked please contact us to let us know. The line is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
We're sorry if you have been unfortunate enough to suffer sewage flooding due to a problem on our sewer, you may be entitled to a payment under our guaranteed service standards scheme.
A sewerage manhole cover is found along the line of where the sewer or drain runs. A sewerage manhole, or inspection chamber, is there to allow maintenance on the underground public sewer or drain. A manhole is usually 2ft in wide, can be round or triangular, and is made of heavy duty metal. A sewerage manhole cover is found along the line of where the sewer or drain runs. This is the same for public sewers and private drains. Not every property will have a manhole on their property, for example if you share a sewer it may be on a neighbouring property. For more information visit our responsibility for sewer pipes page.
A smell of sewage could be an early indication of a problem in the sewers or drains. To report sewage smell, outside your property or in a public place, please contact us.
If the smell is inside your property, particularly if it is coming from your downstairs sink, it is likely to be your private drainage and may indicate a blockage. We offer a fixed fee service whereby we will spend up to four hours investigating and clearing a blockage. If the blockage then re-occurs within 14 days we will clear it again for free, unless there is evidence of misuse.
Responsibilities for sewers and drains changed in October 2011
In October 2011 the transfer took place and all sewers, and sewer apparatus, outside of your property boundaries and any sewers shared with another property transferred to the ownership to your water company. If the manhole is inside you property boundary and is not shared with another property the manhole will be your responsibility.
To report a problem with a manhole on our public sewer please contact us.
For more information see our responsibilities for sewer pipes page.
A sewerage manhole, or inspection chamber, is there to allow maintenance on the underground public sewer or drain. A manhole is usually 2ft in wide, can be round or triangular, and is made of heavy duty metal.
A lateral drain will run across properties that share a sewer. It is the section of pipe that crosses the boundary of the property it's serving, and runs across property boundaries that are on a shared sewer.
For more information see our responsibility for sewer pipes page.
A drain is the pipe that takes foul or surface water away from a property. The drain that runs from the connection to your property up to the point it crosses the property boundary is called the sewerage pipe. A drain becomes a sewer when more than one property uses the same section of pipe.
For more information and to see a diagram of the property and pipe boundaries, visit our responsibility for sewer pipes page.
If you see a cover that's noisy, broken and/or could be dangerous, please contact us to let us know so we can get it fixed. The cover could be for electrical, gas, TV, internet or council supplies, so we'll need as much information as you can to make sure it's fixed as quickly as possible. If you can, let us know the size, where it is, and if there are any markings on it, that will help us identify it.
A road gully is a small chamber covered by a metal grating found in the gutter of a roadway. They are used to collect surface water from the road and are the responsibility of your local councils Highways Authority.
The process to connect a new development site to our public sewerage work is the same as for a single property.
You'll need to complete a series of application forms, which can all be found along with supporting information, in our Developer section.
To connect a single property (for your home or business), you will need to complete an application form and send it to us before you can start working on it. All of the details of how to apply are on the Developers section of our website.
If your building work is close to our pipework, you will need to let us know so we can make sure it won't affect the supply. You can request a water or sewer pipes map to see whether your building work is going to be close or going over our pipework.
Further information can be found in our Developers section.
A sewage pumping station is used to move sewage from one place to another (either to a sewage works or a receiving gravity sewer) when gravity can't be relied on. They can be found in rural areas where they may convey the sewage from a village to another location, and also in urban areas where low lying land may prevent the flow via gravity. Pumping stations are sometimes built to replace smaller sewage works as they cost less to operate and maintain, and require a smaller footprint.
We're currently working to make sure we know where all of the pumping stations are, as some were built quite a while ago, and making sure the ownership is correct for them. So if you have one on your property or near by, let us know so we can check it out.
A cesspit, also know as cesspool, is a tank which takes the sewage draining from a property. The tank is used only to store the sewage until it is collected. It should be watertight and must be emptied frequently. They're normally located within the property boundary.
Cesspit/Cesspools usually serve one property and are owned and maintained by the owner of the property. If the cesspit serves more than one property then it will usually be jointly maintained by the owners of the properties which it serves. You can find cesspit maintenance and emptying services in your local telephone directory.
Storage tanks are used to store sewage in the event of a storm. Some return the sewage to the sewer by gravity after the storm has passed, others (similar to pumping stations) will pump the stored sewage back in the sewer.
A septic tank is a small sewage treatment system used for properties where there's no connection to main sewer pipes available. Sewage drains into the septic tank from one or more properties and is treated by bacteria in the tank. Septic tanks usually have an outlet to an effluent drain or soak-away.
Septic tanks usually serve one property and are owned and are maintained by the owner of the property. If the septic tank serves more than one property then it will usually be jointly maintained by the owners of the properties which it serves. If you need maintenance to be done on your septic tank you can find companies in your local telephony directory.
The Environment Agency provide a free Flood Warning information service where you can check if you are currently at risk from river, coastal or groundwater flooding.
Please use our Report a Problem form to let us know so that we can investigate and get the problem fixed for you.
Your water services are provided by South East Water and so that you receive one bill for all of your water and sewerage services we have arranged for them to bill for waste water services on our behalf. Your bill is made up of three elements:
1. Water Services - Water Supply
This is shown as ‘Water In’ on your bill and covers the volume of water you have used. A reading is taken from your meter to calculate your charges. There is also a Standing Charge which is a fixed annual sum based on the size of your meter. South East Water provide your water services.
2. Wastewater Services - Use Water Disposal
This charge is also based on the water consumption registered through your meter. It is shown on your bill as ‘water out’ and covers the treatment of used water from your property.
3. Wastewater Services - Standing Charge
This covers the taking away and treatment of rainwater from your property. It also includes a contribution towards the cost of producing bills, processing payments and dealing with customer enquiries.
Sewer flooding happens for a number of reasons and we can’t always prevent it. It's most likely to occur during storms, when large volumes of rainwater enter the sewers. Sewer flooding can also occur when our pipes become blocked. Contact us immediately to report incidents of sewer flooding or if your property has suffered sewer flooding.
Is the flooding our responsibility?
It’s important that we know whether the flooding is from a sewer (our responsibility) or another source so we can give you the very best possible help and advice.
Public sewer flooding
It is likely to be our responsibility if:
- Your property and others are experiencing sewer flooding.
- There’s foul debris, like toilet paper or sanitary products, in the water. See our top tips to help to prevent a blockage.
- The flooding is coming from a public sewer.
If you have suffered flooding from a public sewer you may be entitled to a payment under our Guaranteed Service Standards scheme .
Private sewer flooding
It's likely to be your responsibility if:
- Your property is the only one experiencing sewer flooding.
- You don't share drainage with any other property.
- There's no other flooding locally.
- The flooding is coming from your private drain or sewer.
Public highway flooding
If the problem arises from a highway drain or gully and there is no foul debris in the flooding, it is likely to be the responsibility of the Local Authority. In these cases you should contact your Local Authority.
River flooding occurs from a main river and there is no foul debris in the flood water, then you should contact the Environment Agency. Visit the Environment Agency's website for useful information about river flooding and general information about flood warnings.
Surface water flooding
Lead Local Flood Authorities were established in 2010 and are responsible for managing flood risk from surface water. ground water and smaller local watercourses (not main rivers). To report surface water flooding, ground water flooding or flooding from local watercourse you should contact your Lead Local Flood Authority (Unitary Authorities and County Councils) or your Local Authority (e.g District Councils).
Fields can get waterlogged by heavy rain or through inadequate drainage. The responsibility normally lies with the landowner and you should contact the landowner to establish who is responsible.
If your home or property is flooded internally, you should contact your household insurers as soon as possible to arrange clean up, disinfectant and replacement of any damaged property. After sewer flooding we will do our best to find out why it happened and see if there is anything that can, within reason, be done to stop it happening again and we'll let you know the outcome of any investigations.
There is some really helpful information on the Environment Agency website about how to plan and deal with sewer flooding.
Severe weather and heavy rain can cause flooding, especially in the low-lying areas. It's very unpleasant and difficult to deal with - so we have produced some advice on what you can do.
What could happen during flooding?
- In your home, drains could stop flowing and sewage could back up into your sinks, toilets, baths, etc.
- Outside you may see sewer flooding coming through public drains, sewers, and possibly even from man holes.
What do you need to do if you’re in a flood risk area?
- Gather essentials so that you can quickly evacuate, for example - torches, food, first aid kits and any medication needed.
- If you are able to prepare your property, move valuables to higher shelves or up stairs and turn off your water, gas and electricity main supplies where it is safe to do so.
- Stay out of the floodwater; it can be very hazardous to health. Make sure you thoroughly wash your hands if you do come in to contact with it. Also, running water can be deceptively fast and strong, so it’s best to avoid walking or driving through any flood water.
- Evacuate when told, and follow advice from the emergency services.
Where can you get the latest updates for your area?
- Environment Agency flood alerts can be found here.
- Met Office weather alerts.
- Local travel updates.
- Public health advice on flooding.
Where can you go for help?
- For more detailed information about what to do during flooding, visit the Environment Agency’s flood advice page.
What you should do after flooding?
- Contact your insurance company to let them know.
- Do not turn on any electrical or gas supplies without making sure they have dried out first.
- Be careful of any broken glass or other debris that may have been caused by the flooding.
- You may need to boil your water before using it.
The rain that falls on your roofs, yards and other parts of your property drains away to the public sewers. This is called surface water. We include the cost of removing this surface water in the sewerage charges on your bill. For some customers, surface water or groundwater may not drain into the public sewer. If you are in this category you may be able to claim for a reduction in your sewerage charges.
Please contact us if you believe that your property does not benefit from these services.
- Turn off the water supply at the internal stop tap, this is usually located under the kitchen sink or in the downstairs cloakroom.
- Check to see if the pipe has burst.
- Open the affected tap.
- Slowly thaw the pipe with hot water bottles or a towel soaked in hot water, starting at the end nearest the tap.
- Never use a naked flame, hairdryer or blowtorch to thaw the pipe.
- Don't leave taps dripping or running as the water may not drain down the plughole if the pipe below is frozen.
- If you are in any doubt, turn off the internal stop tap and call a plumber.
Cold weather can cause problems to the water supply because when water freezes in a pipe it turns to ice and expands. As the ice expands, it increases pressure on the pipes and joints, often causing pipes to split or joints to pull apart.
You can protect your pipes and fittings from freezing by insulating all pipe work in unheated areas like lofts, roofs, garages and outbuildings. Your local plumbing merchants and DIY stores can help you to find the right insulation. Check all pipes inside your home are lagged and protected before the cold weather comes, and any bare pipes outside your home. If you're not confident in doing it yourself, a qualified plumber will be able to help you.
Make sure you have adequate insurance. You can insure your home against plumbing and drainage emergencies such as burst pipes with Homeserve.