On the 1st October 2011, we will see one of the biggest changes in terms of who is responsible for the upkeep of foul sewers and surface water sewers. It will wholly change the relationship between Property Owner and the Sewage Undertaker. These changes have been brought about by Section 105 Water Industry Act 1991 and a Statutory Instrument entitled “ Water Industry (Schemes for the Adoption of Private Sewers) Regulations 2011. In order that one can properly understand the magnitude of the changes, we have set out some definitions as to what key words mean
- 1. Definitions
- ‘A Property’s Curtilage’ means the land which comprises a Property as shown on the Title Plan
- ‘A Private Drain’ means a drain serving only one Property which is within a Property’s Curtilage and is used for the flow of waste, surface water or both
- ‘A Lateral Drain’ means a drain serving only one Property but which is outside a Property’s Curtilage and is used for the flow of waste, surface water or both. Where the location of a Private Sewer is known this will be shown on the Drainage Plan which we sent to you with our Report.
- ‘A Private Sewer’ means a drain which serves two or more Properties and is used for the flow of waste, surface water or both. Where the location of a Private Sewer is known this will be shown on the Drainage Plan which we sent to you with our Report.
- ‘ A Mains Foul Sewer’ means an existing Sewer which carries waste and is the responsibility of the Sewage Undertaker. This is shown with a continuous red line on the Drainage Plan which we sent to you with our report.
- ‘ A Mains Surface Water Sewer’ means an existing Sewer which carries surface water and is the responsibility of the Sewage Undertaker. This is shown with a blue hyphenated line on the Drainage Plan which we sent to you with our report.
- ‘A Section 24 Sewer’ is a drain which serves more one Property which was in existence pre 1st January 1937 and is the responsibility of the Sewage Undertaker
- ‘A Sewage Undertaker’ means one of the 10 regional bodies responsible for the disposal of waste and surface water
- ‘ A Sustainable Urban Drainage’ means a form of surface water drainage into which surface water drainage, drains into, (a form of receptacle) and out of which the excess, discharges into a Mains Surface Water Sewer
- ‘ A Single Managed Property’ is a site which comes under the auspices of a single owner and has its own sewage system. Examples may include a Site comprising a Flat Development, Hospitals, Schools, Retail Parks, Industrial Estates, Caravan Parks, Railway Stations, Airports, Docks.
NOTE; this does not include Council or Housing Estates
- 2. Current Responsibilities
a) The Sewage Undertaker is responsible for each Mains Foul Sewer, Mains Surface Water Sewer and Section 24 Sewers.
b) House Owners whose foul drainage and surface water drainage run through a Private Sewer are each responsible for a share of the cost of upkeep of a Private Foul Sewer and or Private Surface Water Sewer
c) A House Owner is solely responsible for a Private Drain and a Lateral Drain.
- 3. New Additional Responsibilities Of Each Sewage Undertaker
a) From the 1st October 2011, all existing Private Sewers and Lateral Sewers which existed as at 1st July 2011, unless within a Single Managed Property, will be transferred to your regional Sewage Undertaker. The only exception to such a Transfer is if a Property Owner objects within two months of receiving notification of the transfer and the Objection is upheld by OFWAT. The Sewers once transferred will become known as ‘Section 105a Sewers’. In time we expect them to be regarded as Public Foul Sewers or Public Surface Water Sewers in the same way as we regard existing Public Foul Sewers and Public Surface Water Sewers.
b) The Sewage Undertaker will be responsible for the cost of maintenance and repair of the Section 105a Sewers
c) Section 105 Sewers will be able to run under neighbouring land as a Statutory Right.
d) Privately Owned Foul Drainage Pumping Stations which pump foul drainage from more than one Property and into a Public Foul Sewer will be transferred to the Sewage Undertaker over a FIVE (5) year period from 1st October 2011
e) Where surface water sewers from a Property drain into a Sustainable Urban Development, and the Property Owner is charged a surface water rate, then it appears the surface water sewers will be transferred to the Sewage Undertaker. Where there is no surface water charge the sewer will remain private. The SUD will be transferred to the Local Authority once provisions in the Flood and Land Management Act 2010 are implemented.
- 4. What Will Remain Private
a) Property Owners will continue to be responsible for Private Drains running under their own Property.
b) Private Pumping Stations which pump foul drainage from only one Property or do not pump foul drainage into a Public Sewer. Examples would include waste pumped into a septic tank or a private treatment plant and surface water pumped into a watercourse such as a lake
c) Drainage which is within the grounds of a Single Managed Property. (drainage outside of a SMP will however be transferred to the Sewage Undertaker
d) What will be the Implications of the Changes
a) All Property Owners who currently pay for foul drainage and or surface water will see an increase in their Bills to reflect the huge increase in the Drainage System which will become the responsibility of each Sewage Undertaker. Early indications are that Sewage Undertakers nationally expect to take over responsibility of drains / sewers measuring in excess of 100,000 km
b) All Property Owners will need to become even more aware of whether a Section 105a Sewer crosses their Property because firstly where “public foul sewers” and or ‘public surface water sewers’ , run under land, an owner of such land cannot build on or within three meters of the centre line of such a sewer without the consent of the Regional Sewage Undertaker. Secondly all Property Owners owe a Duty of Care under Section 111 of the Water Industry Act 1991 not to do anything which may cause damage to a public foul sewer. This means particular regard should be had to close proximity of tree roots which could permeate the sewer.
c) Existing Structures built on or within three meters of a Section 105 Sewer will not require a retrospective approval.
d) Will Building Insurance Companies reduce their “Household premiums” to reflect the fact that a Sewage Undertaker is responsible for more sewers?
e) Works to Section 105a Sewers will be carried out by teams of contractors approved by the Sewage Undertaker
f) Works to Private Drains will remain the responsibility of the landowner.
g) More Drainage Pumping Stations will need to be built.