UK: Private sewers, drains to transfer to water company ownership

Approximately 200,000 kilometres of privately owned sewers and lateral drains in England will be transferred to water and sewerage companies from 2011, removing millions of householders from the risk of expensive repair bills, Environment Secretary Hilary Benn confirmed today...

LONDON, UK, Dec. 15, 2008 -- Approximately 200,000 kilometres of privately owned sewers and lateral drains in England will be transferred to water and sewerage companies from 2011, removing millions of householders from the risk of expensive repair bills, Environment Secretary Hilary Benn confirmed today.

Currently, if a private sewer or lateral drain needs repairing, the bill is picked up by householders, even if the problem is outside their property boundary. Most householders don't even know the sewer or drain is their responsibility as it is not apparent when buying a property, and their insurance policies are unlikely to cover wear and tear.

It is estimated that well over half of all houses in England have a private sewer or lateral drain, the part of a drain that lies outside the property boundary.

Mr Benn said: "Millions of householders are unwittingly sitting on the ticking financial time bomb of private sewers and lateral drains. They may not realise it, but if something goes wrong they have to pick up the bill. The transfer to water and sewerage companies will create a fairer system for all and save many households the agony of finding thousands of pounds to pay for repairs."

There are approximately 300,000 kilometres of public sewers in England operated and repaired by water and sewerage companies. A further 200,000 kilometres of pipework connects to the public system but, by default, remains the responsibility of householders they serve. Many people will be unaware that they own the sewer or lateral drain until problems occur. This can result in people having to find thousands of pounds for repairs or relying on contributions from neighbours as the sewer will serve more than one property.

An extensive review of private sewers began in 2001, prompted by the concerns of householders and a consultation in 2003 revealed a high level of support for transfer. Defra looked at how this transfer could be achieved in a further consultation in 2007.

The costs of transfer will be met by an increase in the sewerage element of bills across the nine sewerage companies currently estimated to be around 7.5 pence to 23 pence a week.

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