A road in the centre of York was closed for a day last week when the road partially collapsed. A burst water pipe was deemed to be the cause of the problem which closed Goodramgate between College Street and St Maurice’s Road. Workers managed to repair the water pipe, but a void was still left in the road.

Yorkshire Water will now have to examine the void using specialist CCTV survey equipment to see if the void has been caused by the damaged water main or a partially collapsed sewer.

A Yorkshire Water spokesperson stated:

“Now the pipe has been repaired we have moved on to fixing the road, but we have noticed a void on the road which may be caused by water or could be a collapsed sewer.”

Drain inspection

Drain inspection engineers have all the latest technology at their disposal to diagnose and repair drainage systems. Using CCTV survey equipment, they can look inside the drain to find out the cause of the blockage or collapse. They can then jet the drain if a blockage is found or insert a liner into the drain to repair a crack or a partial collapse. If the drain is fully collapsed, the drain may have to be excavated to instigate a repair.

Lostock Hall in Lancashire saw severe flooding earlier this year when a flash thunderstorm released a huge amount of water in a very short space of time.

Roads including Lourdes Avenue, Leyland Road and Croston Road were all left under several feet of water as residents tried in vain to stop the water coming into their homes.

After the flooding subsided a drainage contractor performed a detailed CCTV survey of the drainage system underneath Leyland Road and Cootes Lane to find the cause of the problem. And then undertook a cleaning exercise on the drains in question to remove the build up of any deposits and silt found. However, the survey information revealed that it was perhaps just the amount of water that caused the flooding. A spokesperson from United Utilities confirmed that the sewers in question were never built to cope with such a large quantity of water in such a short space of time.

He stated:

“A minimal amount of silt removed from Cootes Lane’s sewer.

“No other blockages where found.

“Fats, oils and greases were found in the sewer on Leyland Road and visits were made to businesses to give advice around what not to flush into the public sewer.

“The Lostock Hall area suffered two days of heavy rain in July which was identified as a one-in-20 year’s storm.

“The network was not designed for this amount of rainfall.

“The first five months of 2010 were the driest on record and the significant open land nearby was so hard the water just had no natural way to soak through. We understand the local council has work to complete on its own highway gullies, which will help.

“Our sewer network is operating normal for the conditions it was designed for.”

While most of us will be enjoying our Christmas dinner with all the trimmings, the countries water companies will be counting the cost of the problems associated – namely blocked sewers.

Wessex Water is one company that is making a point of trying to inform customers what to do with the fat from their Christmas dinner, instead of flushing it down the plughole. Over 40 sewers every week are blocked by grease, oil and fat in the regions served by Wessex Water, which include Dorset, Bath, Wiltshire and Somerset. And the cost to repair the blockages caused by the incorrect disposal of these fats can often fall to the homeowner if the drain is privately owned.

Wessex Water supply sewerage services to 2.6 million people and have to unblock 18 blocked sewers every day in the West region.

Nick Stone, the head of Wessex Water waste treatment stated:

“Blockages seriously affect the performance of sewers designed to remove waste water from homes and businesses, and can result in flooding inside properties causing extensive damage or external flooding that could lead to pollution of watercourses.

“Our advice is to never pour fat, oil or grease down the sink, but instead, carefully dispose of it with your household rubbish.

“Hot fats, which cool quickly and solidify in drains and sewers, along with other disposable items, cause three-quarters of blockages in sewers.

“This is a particular problem at Christmas, when it is estimated that 25 per cent more fat ends up in drains and sewers,”

Property Ladder presenter Sarah Beeny is fronting a campaign which is targeted at homeowners who continue to put incorrect items into their drainage system.

The presenter and developer launched Yorkshire Water’s Doing the Dirty campaign last Friday and stood in a re-constructed kitchen and toilet, which was filled waste deep with the contents of an overflowing drainage system.

Ms Beeny hopes that the escapade will highlight the problems that blocked drains can have on homeowners.

Beeny stated:

“Whilst filming programmes I have come across problems caused by residents who have been happily pouring things like fat down their sink without realising the real problems that they could cause to their homes.

“This is why this campaign is so important. People need to realise that their toilets and sinks are not designed to take away this type of material. If they continue to dispose of things in this way they risk causing sometimes devastating damage to their property.”

Over a third of problems with blocked drains in the Yorkshire area were caused by people putting the wrong items into their drainage system.

The network production manager at Yorkshire Water, Fran Winter, stated:

“It is really important that customers understand the impact that disposing of things incorrectly down their toilet and sink can have on their homes. We know that it might seem like pouring even a small amount fat down the sink will not cause a problem, but a small amount every day could eventually lead to a big problem.

“Over time fat builds up in pipes to form what is best described as a block of lard – this fat then blocks pipes, meaning waste water cannot escape away down its usual route to the sewers and ends up coming back up through toilets and sinks leaving a devastating effect to your home.”

United Utilities have launched their latest attempt to keep Manchester’s sewers free from grime, a robot called Big Dave.

Big Dave is a mechanised camera with all terrain tyres that can roll over just about any surface. He is controlled from above ground by his helper and can go into places a human simply can’t fit. With over one million turkeys being cooked this Christmas in the North West, it’s no wonder the sewers become blocked by all the fat that gets poured down the sink, but Dave is on a mission to find the fat so the sewers can work properly again.

Manchester’s sewer network is over 100 years old and whilst it still operates quite successfully, blockages and problems do occur from time to time. With six wheels and his own lighting rig, Dave can find the blockages and problems that people simply can’t without excavating the drain. He relays pictures to the surface via his multidirectional camera and doesn’t even baulk when he comes into contact with the occasional rat.

United Utilities are asking residents not to pour liquid fats down the sink, instead you need to let it go solid and put it into the general waste, or instead make it into a fat ball and hang it outside for the birds.

Over the years, the drains that lead away from your property can reduce in diameter due to the accumulation of waste matter. If they are not cleaned or maintained, this can result in a blockage or flooding on your property.

Drainage maintenance is not something that should be ignored. And if you follow a few simple tips, you can keep on top of some of the simpler types of maintenance.

Sink maintenance

If you take care what items are put down the sink, you should avoid blockages for some years to come. Putting items such as food scraps and liquid fats down the sink is a sure way to start a blockage occurring. The waste matter can stick to the inside of the pipes and eventually cause a clog. If you make sure that you don’t put food or oils down the sink, and pour hot water down the sink on a regular basis, you can avoid a blockage. However, if it is too late and you already have a blocked waste pipe there are a few things you can try to unblock a blocked sink.

  1. Pour hot water down the sink
  2. Use a plunger
  3. Try a supermarket drain unblocking liquid
  4. Use a small sink drain rod

If all the above fail you can call specialist drainage contractors who have all the right equipment to solve blocked drains.

A HGV was left in a spot of bother, when it sank into a hole in a road in Frampton last week. Usually potholes do little but create a bump when you drive across them, but this hole, caused by a sewer collapse, was large enough for the lorry to need a crane to lift its sunken wheels out of the hole.

The incident happened on West End Road in front of the Tulip Factory entrance, which had to be closed to traffic due to the collapse. A temporary entrance to the site is currently being created until road repairs can take place.

Anglian Water attended the scene and assessed the situation. It seems that drain installation engineers will have to replace the sewer next year, so until then they will fill the hole and make temporary repairs to the road surface.

A spokesperson for Anglian Water stated:

“We got to site as soon as possible when we heard that a collapsed sewer had left a depression in the road.

“We will be filling in the hole as soon as possible so traffic can use the road again. We will then come back in the New Year to put a permanent fix in place and repair the damage to the sewer.

“We’re sorry for the inconvenience this will have caused.”

Drain inspection engineers in Brecon were surprised to find that a digital camera was the cause of a drain blockage in the town. Most drain blockages are caused by the accumulation of waste products, fat or people flushing nappies or sanitary items into the drainage system, so a camera was not expected.

The camera was ruined, but the memory card remained intact, and when one of the sewer workers inserted it into his computer, it revealed about 300 girlie party pictures. The drainage contractors have published the pictures in the hope that the girls will reclaim them.

The engineer who found and removed the camera, Barry Griffiths, said:

“We get all sorts of stuff clogging up the works but this is the first time we’ve found a camera.”

“When I downloaded the pictures they came up fine – most of them show girls dressed up for a night out.

“Although how the camera got down the sewage in the first place is anyone’s guess.”

Barry also said that the camera is one of his most unusual finds since he began his career 24 years ago. It’s not known how the camera found its way into the drainage system, but it’s hoped the girls are soon reunited with their party snaps.

Dŵr Cymru, the Welsh water company, has just admitted responsibility for allowing raw sewage to enter a lake in Gwynedd.

The firm received a six month conditional discharge from magistrates in Caernarfon after sewage was found in Llyn Padarn Lake in Llanberis. It was also fined £3,800 costs for the spill which happen in April this year.

The Environment Agency brought the case against the water firm and said that the incident was disappointing. The impact to the lake it seems was at a minimum as there were no reports of any wildlife deaths and the general public were advised not to use the lake after the spill happened.

The north Wales area manager for the Environment Agency, David Edwell, stated:

“It’s disappointing that this happened, and in such an environmentally sensitive area and one that relies on the recreational use of the lake.”

However, Dŵr Cymru’s response has been positive, he said he has been:

“…encouraged that since this incident the company’s attitude towards its environmental obligations in the area has been positive,

“Prevention is better than cure, and we will be working closely with the company to try and prevent incidents of this type recurring,”

Residents in Durham will see their sewers upgraded over the next year as part of a £3m sewer investment scheme by Northumbrian water.

The third phase of planned works will begin in January in Belmont and Carrville and will see drain installation engineers install a new sewer network and a flood protection scheme created, which will protect residents homes.

A drop-in event is planned today (15th Dec) at the Broomside Communal Hall in Belmont between 2.00pm and 7.00pm. All residents are invited so they can find out more about the planned works and ask any questions that they may have.

Phase two of the project was completed in 2009 and protected 54 properties in Carrville and 33 in Belmont.
The project manager of the new works, Ashley Ferguson, stated:

“This latest phase of work in the Belmont and Carrville area will involve installing more than 1,090 metres of new sewer pipe at Broome Road, Broomside Lane, Carrsway, Fallsway, Lingdale and Oakham Drive, and upsizing a further 355 metres of sewer pipe at Bainbridge Street, Bedale Close, Brackendale Road, Fallsway, Ferndale and Thorndale Road.

“We will also build four storm water storage tanks in land at Dene Drive, Grange Court, Heatherdale Crescent and in the school field at Cheveley Park Primary School. Together these will hold more than 2.1 million litres of water in times of heavy rainfall, to be returned to the sewerage network after the storm.

“As with any essential work, some disruption is inevitable, but we hope that residents will welcome the scheme and the protection it offers, and bear with us while work is being carried out.”

There will be traffic diversions in place while the work is carried out with up-to-date details available on the Northumbrian Water website.