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Drain and sewer blockages

Transfer of private sewers to water authorities

In October 2011, most private sewers and lateral drains, which were once the responsibility of the property owner, were transferred to the water authorities, who are now responsible for dealing with repairs and blockages. In Brentwood, the main water authorities are Anglian Water and Thames Water - to find out which one covers you, please check your water bill for information.

If there are any problems with your drains or sewers you should contact your water authority who should be able to advise you on the problem.

What is the difference between a drain and a sewer?

A drain is a pipe which serves a single property whereas a sewer serves more than one property. Most dwellings have a length of drain which becomes a sewer when it connects up with another house's drain. In general, after the transfer takes place you will still be responsible for dealing with a drain blockage if it occurs on your own property.

What causes blockages and how can I prevent them?

Most blockages are the result of the wrong substances being put down the drain, particularly hot fats, disposable nappies and sanitary towels.  You should therefore avoid putting down the drain anything that might cause a blockage.  Using a safe chemical cleaner occasionally can help to prevent blockages from building up.

Blockages can also be caused by fractured and dropped sewers.  Particular care should be taken to avoid causing damage to existing drainage and sewers when any building work is carried out, patios laid or fences erected.

What can I do if there is a blockage?

The water authorities are responsible for clearing blockages in sewers. If you are not sure if the problem is only affecting your property then you could see whether neighbouring properties are affected or alternatively contact your water should in the first instance call your water authority using the numbers below:

Anglian Water 08457 145145

Thames Water 0845 9200 800

If the blockage is only in your drain, you may need to arrange for it to be cleared.  Specialist companies can be found in the 'Yellow Pages' under Drain & Pipe. 

You may be able to deal with a minor blockage, and save yourself time and money, if you have the necessary equipment.  A medium sized hand plunger should cope with most blocked sinks. You should also have a spanner of the correct size to remove the trap underneath the sink.

A set of drain rods should be sufficient to clear most private sewers. Under no circumstances should unsuitable equipment be used, such as lengths of timber, because if they break off they can make the problem far more difficult to deal with. Protective clothing should be worn by anyone attempting to clear sewers.