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Enviromental Protection - Sewers and Drains

Sewers and drains

On 1 October 2011 South West Water took ownership of private sewers where they either leave the property boundary or join another property (which ever is first).  This means that you still have a liability for the private sewer (this also includes manholes etc) that serves your property whilst it is on your property, although once it leaves it will be down to South West Water to maintain and deal with any issues.

The diagram below explains this: 

Map showing responsibility for drains

Previously some properties have been responsible for private sewers a long distance off their property, and in some instances on other people's property - although this is designed to remove this responsibility.

In the instance of a blockage - if it is on your land and the pipe only serves your property - you would be liable to get this cleared, you will be able to find a number of companies that will be able to clear this in the Yellow Pages, on the internet or other such places. 

If the problem is either off your property or the pipe serves more than one property - call South West Water on 0800 230 0561.

South West Water also have advice and information on what to do if you have been flooded by sewage and what they are doing to try to minimise the risk of this happening.  Often sewer blockages are caused by people putting items down the toilet that are not suitable to be put into the sewer system - many items are not suitable to be flushed down a toilet.

Septic tanks and cesspits

Septic tanks reduce the bacterial and nutrient load (e.g. phosphates and nitrates) of the effluent discharged into it and to stop the effluent from polluting watercourses or drinking water sources in the vicinity. They comprise of compartments for deposit of waste and settlement/treatment where bacterial activity creates a sludge that accumulates over time and requires regular removal. Responsibility usually lies with the properties using the tank, even if it is located on only one premises.

A cess pool or pit is essentially a leak-proof holding tank for the waste; they are usually much larger than septic tanks. A cess pool needs to be emptied once it is full; this will usually be more frequently than for a septic tank because the liquid needs to be removed as well as sludge because there is no percolation into the soil. Responsibility for cess pools is the same as for septic tanks.

Highway drainage

The Highway department is responsible for ensuring that the public highway is not obstructed by standing water. This may be taken from the tarmacked surface by ditches, gullies or pipes and may discharge into streams, sewers or onto adjoining land. Problems with blocked ditches or highway gullies should be reported to CORMAC Solutions by calling 0300 1234 222 or e-mail

Environmental Protection role

The Council has no direct responsibility for foul water drains, sewers, septic tanks, cess pits etc. Environmental Protections role is to ensure that the person or persons responsible take appropriate remedial action if a drainage problem (e.g. a sewer blockage causing leakage) presents a risk to public health. However the Council has no powers enabling it to require South West Water to clear blockages or repair public sewers.

For more information on drains and drainage please contact the Environmental Protection Team by email or call 0300 1234 212