Blocked drains and sewers

What to look out for

There are a number of signs that a drain or sewer is blocked;

  • the toilet or sink waste are not draining away, or is draining very slowly
  • smell around drain covers
  • liquid coming out from around the drain cover.

What causes blockages?

There are many causes of blockages. Common causes are tree roots growing into the pipes, a build of soap or grease deposits and disposable nappies.

Sometimes the pipe can collapse or be squashed by the weight of soil above it. This has happened where houses were built in the 1960s or 70s and the pipes were made of a material callled 'pitch fibre'.

What to do in the event of a blockage

If a private sewer is blocked, any of the users of it may pay for it to be unblocked. It is advisable for the users of a private sewer to agree among themselves how any charges are to be shared.

If the council is called in to investigate the problem, legal notices can be served on all affected properties requiring the sewer to be unblocked, within a specified time.

If the blockage is not removed, the council can give instructions for the work to be carried out and recover costs from the users, along with administrative charges incurred by the council.

Most blockages can be cleared by rodding through the sewer from an access point such as an inspection chamber or a rodding eye. Sometimes, however, it is necessary for the sewer to cleared using a high pressure water jet system, which should only be done by a specialist contractor.