Frequently asked questions
What do I do if I have a blocked drain or sewer?
For blockages on a public sewer, please contact us on 0344 346 2020 so that we can confirm responsibility.
We’re responsible for maintaining public sewers and we’ll attend within 4 hours to unblock the sewer, free of charge.
If you are the homeowner, you are responsible for unblocking private sewers and drains. We’d recommend you contact a private contractor and you can find a list of approved contractors on the WaterSafe website by selecting your postcode and then 'Sanitation' within the services section . If you have an insurance policy that covers this, please check your policy documents first.
We’re responsible for clearing any blockages from the pipes highlighted in brown below. The pipes marked in blue are the responsibility of the homeowner.
You may find that a sewer pipe that you share with your neighbours runs through your land. In this case it would be classed as a public sewer/lateral drain and would be our responsibility.
For tenants, you may want to contact the Landlord to assist.
If the blockage is appearing from the upstairs of your property only, it’s unlikely to be from a public sewer.
The table below shows who is responsible for flooding and blockages:
Surface water on roads, highways and pavementsBlocked road drains / gullies and overgrown verges
Local Council Highways Department
Devon County Council Highways
Cornwall County Council Highways
Dorset County Council Highways
|Groundwater||Waterlogged ground when water pools on the surface||
Local Council or Landowner
|Rivers and watercourses||Water draining into rivers and streams from nearby land||
Environment Agency or Landowner
|Coastal / Tidal||Rough seas, high tides or storm overflows on lower land||Environment Agency|
|Public sewers||Manholes and covers||Us|
|Cesspits/ septic tanks, toilets or internal drains||Homeowner|
To help prevent sewers blocking have a look at our top tips.
How can I dispose of fat, oil or grease?
Please follow these easy steps to keep fat, oil and grease out of your pipes by using your Gunk Pot or equivalent container:
Scrape food scraps and fat off your plates into your bin or food waste recycling.
Use your Gunk Pot or similar container to collect cooled fats, oils and grease from roasting trays and frying pans.
Give plates and pans a quick wipe with kitchen roll or newspaper to remove any liquid fat or grease before putting in the sink or dishwasher.
Empty your full Gunk Pot into your kitchen bin, then wipe it out with kitchen roll ready to reuse. Alternatively, dispose of an equivalent container directly into the bin.
However, check the advice from your local council if food recycling is available in your area.
You can buy fat traps along with a range of water saving products from Less Mess
There’s more information here on fat, oil and grease.
What do I do if I have been flooded by sewage?
Step 1: Call us on 0344 346 2020 – 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
Step 2: Call your insurance company if your home is flooded internally
Step 3: We’ll help you clean up and aim to start work within 4 hours
Step 4: We’ll investigate and provide you with a contact to talk to
Step 5: We’ll talk to you about the progression of our investigation and cause of the flooding
Step 6: If we know you’ve been affected by sewage flooding, we’ll send you payment as set out in our Customer promise.
Health precautions to take
- Avoid contact with sewage and wear protective clothing taking extra care to cover any cuts.
- Wash your hands after exposure and wash footwear with a mild disinfectant.
- Keep children and pets away from contaminated area.
- Dispose of any food crops growing in the area (wait at least 6 months to replant crops)
- Call your GP immediately if you swallow any contaminated material or suffer with vomiting or diarrhoea following the flooding.
Other things to consider
- If your gas meter or appliance has been submerged, contact the British Gas emergency number before switching on or lighting any appliance.
- If your electricity meter, fuse box, socket or appliance has been submerged, contact your electricity supplier for advice before using any electrical equipment.
- Make sure you’re property is well ventilated leaving windows open as much as possible. Airbricks under floor spaces should be unblocked to help air flow.
Do I need insurance cover for drainage emergencies?
We are responsible for the public sewers including manholes and covers, so any blockages or flooding problems from the public sewer would be dealt with by us. There's more information on our sewer flooding page about responsibilities, what causes sewer flooding and how we can help.
If you’re a homeowner, you’re responsible for pipework inside your home and for private drains on your land, therefore you may want to consider taking out an insurance policy to cover you for emergencies like a burst pipe or blocked drain.
You should first check if your existing home insurance or other policies provide the cover that suits your needs.
We work with HomeServe, one of the UK’s leading home assistance providers. HomeServe offers a range of home emergency solutions for homeowners including Plumbing and Drainage Cover. You can find out more information here which will help you decide if cover through HomeServe is right for you.
What causes sewer flooding?
Sewer flooding can be caused by:
- Blocked pipes
- Extreme weather causing prolonged rainfall
- Insufficient land drainage
- Surcharges from private sewers or drains
We are responsible for the management and operation of the sewer network, sewage pumping stations, waste water treatment works and the discharge of treated effluent into the environment.
The South West is a sparsely populated region with 30% of the UK coastline but only 3% of its population and this can present some unique challenges.
In order to take away and treat sewerage from the isolated coastal and moorland towns, we must maintain 15,570km of public sewers and operate over 640 sewage treatment works, processing an average of 585 megalitres (129 million gallons) of sewage every day.
We understand the importance of our environment for both tourism and quality of life for our residents so over the last 20 years we have invested more than £2billion to transform bathing water quality across the region, stopping over 200 raw sewage discharges and introducing modern sewage treatment processes in the biggest environmental programme of its kind in Europe.
Every year, we clear up to 8,500 blockages in our sewers, at a cost to both us and our customers of around £4million - a year. Around 21% of these are caused by people flushing baby wipes, hygiene wipes, cleaning wipes, cleansing pads and sanitary products.