Drainage and Sewers

What is a Drain?

A drain is a pipe which takes either foul water (such as that from a sink, bath, washing machine, toilet etc) or surface water (such as rain water) from one premises (house, flat etc) only.

The owner or occupier of a premises is responsible for maintaining their drain, including clearing blockages and repairing any faults. If you rent your property you are advised to discuss any problems you are experiencing with your landlord. As a rule the owner will be responsible for structural repairs and the occupier for clearing blockages. If you own the house you are living in then you are both the owner and occupier.

What is a Sewer?

When a private drain serves more than one property then this is termed a sewer.

What is a Road Gully?

A road gully is a small chamber covered by a metal grate or grill that is usually found on the edge of the highway. It is used to collect and drain water off the highway. These can be subsequently connected to drainage ditches or public sewers. The responsibility for road gullies is with Hampshire County Council Highways Authority  who can be contacted on 01962 892 850.

What should I do if my drain or private sewer requires repair?

If the problem is within your private drain then it is your sole responsibility and you should arrange for appropriate action except where the fault lies outside the boundary of your premises, in which instance the responsibility now rests with Southern Water.

If the problem is with a private sewer then under new legislation introduced in 2011 the responsibility now rests with Southern Water.

Southern Water can be contacted by phone on 0845 278 0845

What is the Role of the Council?

Through various Acts of Parliament the Council can serve a notice on the owners or occupiers of all premises served by a private drain or sewer to require them to perform appropriate remedial works. This could include removing blockages, including scale and tree root intrusion, the repairing of collapses and breaks in the pipe work. You do have a right of appeal against most of these notices, which will be clearly explained with any notice served. If the notice is not complied with within the specified deadline then the council can perform works in default and recover costs (including significant administration charges) and/or prosecute for non compliance.

However, changes in legislation in 2012 mean that most problems with sewers are now dealt with by Southern Water so these powers will only be used to deal with problems outside of Southern Waters remit

Non-Mains Drainage (Cesspools and Septic Tanks)

The following information is for those people who are not on mains drainage being served by their own systems such as cesspools, septic tanks and package treatment plant. Usually such systems are found in the more rural areas of our district where mains drainage is not available. These systems of drainage are effective, provided they are managed correctly. A leaflet explaining these systems can be downloaded on this web page.

What is a Cesspool?

A cesspool is an underground tank which stores sewage until the time of disposal. Cesspools must be watertight to prevent the leakage of foul water or the ingress of groundwater.

They may be constructed in a variety of materials including brick or concrete, but modern ones are more commonly made from glass-reinforced plastics, polythene or steel and have a minimum capacity of 18, 000 litres.

They should be sited so that there is no risk of pollution, particularly to water supplies, and should ideally be located away from any inhabited building to avoid odour problems.

Under the provisions of the Public Health Act 1936, it is an offence to allow a cesspool to overflow or leak. If this happens the owner is liable to prosecution by a local authority and a fine of £50 plus a £2 daily penalty.

In addition, if pollution of a water course takes place, the Environment Agency, which is responsible for ensuring the quality of rivers is monitored and maintained, may take legal action under the Water Resources Act 1991. The penalty for allowing a polluting discharge is up to £20,000 and/or three months imprisonment.

It is an offence for any person other than a competent contractor to pump out, or otherwise attempt to empty out, the contents of a cesspool.

Septic Tanks

A septic tank is a complete mini sewage system in which effluent is treated naturally by making use of bacteria to break down all the solid matter to approximately one third of its original volume.

The settled solids need to be removed only when necessary - usually once a year. The clear liquid flowing from the tank is disposed of via a land drainage system which should not flood. Septic tanks, like cesspools, should be watertight, adequately ventilated and not located where they will pollute water supplies.

Under the Public Health Act 1936, it is an offence to allow a septic tank to overflow or leak. If this happens, the owner is liable to prosecution by the Local Authority and, upon conviction, will be fined up to £50 plus a £2 daily penalty.

The provision of a new or replacement septic tank, treatment plant or cesspool is considered to be work to a “controlled service” and therefore subject to Building Regulation consent. Approval for such works should be sought from this Authority’s Building Control Department.

If you own a septic tank or other similar package treatment systems you may require a permit  from the Environment Agency. In certain circumstances this is not required as long as the appliance meets general binding rules. For more information click on this link to the gov.uk web site.

Council Owned Treatment Systems

The council own about 50 treatment systems that serve properties that are or were council houses. If there is a problem with one of these systems then please contact our Engineering Services.