Sonar is all about sound propagation, and when used in drain tracing it is active, whereby emitted pulses give back echoes to help with acoustic location. The word sonar is originally an acronym for Sound Navigation And Ranging, and it first began to be used in the early part of the 20th century, possibly as a reaction to the sinking of the Titanic in 1912.

How Active Sonar Works

Active sonar involves a transmitter for sound and a receiver. It creates sound in a pulse, known as a ping, which listens for echoes, or reflections of the pulse it has created. The echoes can be used to measure the bearing, or distance to an object.

With sonar drain tracing, the electrical pulses transmitted can help identify specific features of drain networks, which can then help in terms of diagnosing drainage issues and problems, or for helping to clarify details.


The Bigger Picture

There are key benefits to drain tracing when it comes to diagnoses and information-gathering.

For building projects of all sizes and kinds, drain tracing is a valuable planning tool. This is particularly true for projects involving building over existing drainage infrastructure. Many drains and drain networks are old, dating back to Victorian times. Consequently, plans may not always be up to date, or fully comprehensive.

Late discoveries of unexpected areas of the drainage network can be costly in terms of disruption and delays to a construction project, and any slippage in schedule can have serious knock-on effects.

Drain tracing therefore allows for greater pre-planning, by contributing to the bigger picture.


Clues to Collapsed Drains

Drains can deteriorate over time, and collapsed drains may occur following ground movement or the incursion of tree roots, rather than as a result of a specific, damaging episode.

On many properties, drains are closer to the surface than the main public sewer, making them more likely to suffer damage due to surface movements or ground instability.

Visible, surface signs of a collapsed drain can be depressions in the ground or specific damp patches. There may be no outward indication from how the drains are performing because the collapsed, damaged area can be further along from the property itself.

However, if left unrepaired, a collapsed drain can undermine building foundations, leading to subsidence.

Sonar drain tracing is ideal for identifying and diagnosing collapsed or damaged drains, and can also be useful in finding out enough in advance to help prevent a collapsed drain occurring.


If you want reassurance about your drainage system, contact Drainage Consultants today, and find out how our range of diagnostic and preventative drain measures can help you.

Sinkholes seem to be on the increase in the UK and some of them are the result of human activity as well as persistently wet weather. Periods of prolonged heavy rain or flooding are most likely to expose these holes, when water gradually dissolves around soluble bedrock, but also the sudden drainage of groundwater can make them happen. Alongside these natural causes, deterioration of manmade, underground sewage pipes can also cause sinkholes.

Clearly the appearance of a sinkhole is an obvious visual clue to there being something wrong, but a drain survey can have a part to play in ensuring that drainage networks don’t reach the stage of deterioration where sinkholes can occur.

Smaller, but Inconvenient All the Same

Although sinkholes in the UK are generally not more than a few dozen feet deep, they are, nonetheless, an inconvenience, and can be an indicator that drainage or sewage systems are in decline.

Sinkholes can open up nearby large building developments because of water being prevented soaking into rock and instead running off into surrounding land – another example where poor drainage is a big contributory factor.

Rapid Response

A drain survey is an essential tool in tackling drainage issues because it can help ascertain issues before they cause serious disruption. Drain surveys also help with a rapid response in the detection and diagnosis of drain problems, which is a real benefit if things have got to the sinkhole stage.

Sonar drain tracing and CCTV cameras are essential components of the state-of-the-art drain survey. They minimise the environmental impact while providing a detailed view of what’s going on underground.

When we undertake a drain survey on behalf of our clients, we thoroughly assess the local drainage network using this technology. Where we’ve come across drainage problems, or deterioration in the network, we provide a clear set of recommended actions, based on a full report, which includes a DVD of the CCTV footage taken.


A drain survey isn’t simply a nice to have added extra: it’s essential in dealing with drainage issues, whether preventing them or fixing them.

Can a CCTV Drain Survey Help Your Business?

You might not think of drains as being essential to your business, but it’s more than likely that they are. In fact, if you do run a business, there is likely to come a time when you have issues with your drainage. Drains have to face a lot of wear and tear, and some drains are very old. If you’re having a refurbishment or fit-out you might need to ensure your existing drain network will be up to the changes you’ve got planned. This is why a CCTV drain survey can be a real business asset.


What is the True Cost of Your Drains?

What would be the cost implications of not maintaining your drains? For example, if you’re a retailer then blocked drains are going to have some sort of noticeable impact on how you conduct your business. The smell alone may well put your customers off. Also, there are serious health and safety implications for businesses with drains that aren’t functioning properly.

You may be faced with a situation where something is wrong but you don’t know what it is. It may be that your drainage issues are there but not yet actively disruptive. The sensible thing to do is to act and not wait, because putting things off is only going to result in the problem becoming much, much worse, and therefore costing you more to fix.

Say your business is moving to new premises and you want to have it thoroughly refurbished first. Think about checking the existing drainage network to ensure that whatever your plans, you won’t end up with a bill to fix utilities you’ve disrupted or damaged in carrying them out.

Is a CCTV Drain Survey the Answer?

How do you find out the state of your drains without major disruption? The answer is using state of the art CCTV technology to explore the drainage network. Think of it as part of your business planning. Banks and building societies often insist that a drain survey takes place before they release funds to businesses relocating.

Our survey will provide you with all the details you need and, should you need to take action, we’ll have the right plan for you. We can provide a same-day quote and we offer a quick turnaround for your drainage report, based on the CCTV footage we take.

Act now, and ensure a smoother future for your business with a CCTV drain survey.

Cosmetics companies are very good at promoting their products as wholesome and natural, going to great lengths to make claims as to the exotic origins of the ingredients. Kelp from the southern oceans. Salts from desiccated seas. Oils extracts from Peruvian leaves. Tiny plastic beads that get ingested by marine life. OK, they don’t usually mention that one, but they do like to talk about the beads, which are there to offer a little abrasiveness to facial scrubs and assist exfoliation. You might have tried such a product yourself.

Consumers are largely unaware that these beads are made of plastic. You might assume they were some kind of sand or crushed seed, especially given the marketing that surrounds the products. But for presumably economic reasons, plastic is the most viable option.

And because these products are generally used over the bathroom sink or in the bath or shower, there’s only one place they’re going – down the drain and into the water system. At 0.01–0.5 mm in size, they can get through initial sewage treatment and make it out into the rivers and oceans.

There has been a campaign for several years to ban microbeads, but things have come to head with the Attorney General of New York State suggesting that he would be pushing for an all-out ban of the product after huge concentrations were discovered in the Great Lakes.

Pressure is now being placed on cosmetics manufacturers to change the materials they use for microbeads. However the noises coming from the industry is that they don’t see it as an urgent problem but will have a look at more environmentally friendly alternatives. If awareness of the issue grows, however, change might not be in their hands; boycotts by consumers or retailers would give them the hurry-up.

As a drainage consultancy we often advise people on what not to pour down the drain, but sometimes the problems aren’t immediately obvious. It’s probably only a matter of time before plastic microbeads go the way of CFCs in aerosol bottles. And we seem to have managed perfectly well without those.

Summer is nearly upon us, so many of us will be heading out to the garden to do a spot of titivating. It’s also a time when drain cleaners see a small peak in the number of drains blocked by soil.

Part of the problem comes during dry weather, when topsoil can turn to dust and get blown around on the breezes. Much of the soil dust that lands on the concrete of patios and paths will get washed down the drains when it rains. The small amounts will be carried away by the water and in some circumstances, especially when there’s only light rain for prolonged periods, the soil can settle as silt in the interceptor traps or areas with slow flow. This is how the blockages start. Even large municipal storm drains can get blocked during dry spells as there’s no regular flow to prevent build-ups.

Take care as well if you’re venturing out back for the first time since last autumn. You might want to give paths, yards and patios a good brush, but make sure you put any detritus in the bin or return it to the soil – it certainly shouldn’t be brushed into the surface water drain!

Another time you need to take care is when you’re hosing your borders. You can cause a large amount of splashing, and these dirty, clumpy soil particles full of roots, leaves, sand, pebbles and dust can quickly turn into a blockage in your drain, especially if they have been partially blocked by autumn leaves. A hose head with multiple settings can help here. Use a spray setting, not a soak or jet setting – this will minimise splash. If you have borders around a lawn, making sure there’s a drop of about 10–15 cm (4–6 inches) between the lawn edge and the soil. This will help keep run-off topsoil within the borders. Physical barriers can be bought to make sure there’s no collapse of the lawn edges.

Drain covers can be a useful way of keeping most of the soil, leaves and other detritus out of your surface water drains while allowing water through. They can be bought from all DIY stores for a few pounds, which is a sound investment in our book.


Last week a Hull schoolboy became yet another victim of a global crime spree. Joshua Star-Harris never met his assailant, but the scars, the broken nose and the lost tooth point to the seriousness of the incident. The crime? Drain cover theft. Joshua was happily riding his scooter near his home when he came to an abrupt stop after his front wheel dropped into the coverless drain.

In some ways, perhaps, Joshua can count himself lucky. The crime of drain cover theft is so widespread that there have inevitably been a significant number of deaths over the past decade. There’s one tragic story from Bogota, Colombia, of a two-year old falling down a drain while chasing birds – her body was found a mile downstream. There are reports of vans in Colombia being equipped with heavy lifting equipment and having a hole cut in the floor, so they merely have to stop over a cover, lift it off and drive away, a procedure that can be completed in moments. It’s a highly organised crime, and just like those in Hull, the criminals don’t care much for the potential victims who are suffering death, injury and damage to their vehicles as a result of their actions.

In China, where there is also an epidemic, the maximum penalty for manhole cover theft is the death sentence. In the build-up to the Winter Olympics in Sochi, there were reports that more than 30 manhole covers were being stolen every day – when each one could collect £100, it’s no wonder.

Stealing drain and manhole covers isn’t a new phenomenon, but it has undergone a huge increase since the mid-00s when the price of ferrous scrap metals started to rise. To a criminal mind, manhole and grid covers are just like cash lying around, and as long as there are uninquisitive or collaborating scrap dealers, there has been an outlet for their ill-gotten drain covers. Ferrous metals have therefore become the new lead, which has been stolen from roofs for decades. While there could be legitimate reasons for selling scrap lead – builders putting a new roof on a house, for example – to sell grid and manhole covers can only be a criminal act, unless it’s a local authority or the Highways Agency doing the selling.

The Scrap Metal Dealers Act 2013 was an attempt to legislate the problem away. It included measures such as the requirement that scrap dealers do not pay for their goods in cash to make transactions more traceable, and that records are kept of all transactions and the names and addresses of sellers. While this might have put some criminals off, the story from Hull – and countless others around the country – proves that some people will still try their luck.

One solution has been to make manhole covers out of materials that have little or no scrap value, such as non-recyclable plastics. But this is not always an appropriate solution, particularly when the covers are for busy roads; it’s usual for covers on such hhighways to be group 4 (which can withstand 40 tonnes) or group 5 (60 tonnes). Another way of preventing theft is to use anti-theft covers, although nothing is truly immune to the actions of a determined thief.

As long as ferrous metal is valuable enough to risk a spell behind bars, and as long as there are unscrupulous scrap metal merchants willing to buy it, this crime will probably continue to exist. The best defence for the motorist is vigilance and timely reporting of missing covers – and alerting road users and pedestrians to the danger as soon as possible.

We’ve all done it – tried to fish our mobile phones out of storm drain inlets on public streets and then become viral sensations when we got stuck. To be fair to the hapless Ella Birchenough, she seems to have laughed off her close encounter with Dover’s sewerage system. The 16-year-old has already done a few interviews with the press and has even been on Daybreak to talk about her experience.

Fortunately she has the support of her family. In a touching statement on the ordeal, her mother said, “I was really worried. My face went white and I was in a panic. I was scared she might sink. I ran out the house, turned the corner - but as soon as I saw her I burst out laughing.” Thanks, mum.

If you’ve not seen the story and are wondering how she ended up waist deep in a drain, Ella had figured that the best way to retrieve her phone would be to lower herself down and grab the stricken phone with her feet, then un-lower herself out again, dab any water off the phone then go back to school. A career in the Cirque du Soleil would have awaited Ms Birchenough had she pulled that stunt off.

As for the phone, well, it was a write off. Whether it was a written-off BlackBerry or a written-off iPhone depends on which paper you read, but she ended up with a brand new iPhone anyway courtesy of the lovely people at ITV. So after she’s sold the old one on eBay, it’ll turn out to have been a good day at the office for Ella.

So what is the best thing to do when you drop something valuable down a storm drain? Well, first, do a quick visual. Can you see the item or is it submerged (or too dark to see)? If it’s a phone, time is of the essence as every second of seepage increases the likelihood of the phone – and most importantly all its data – being lost. If it’s something really valuable like jewellery, it’s probably best calling for help and standing watch over the drain in case someone else’s prying eyes have seen the whole thing happening. If it’s a valueless but irreplaceable item of sentimental importance, then you’ll have to make a judgement call on getting professional help in.

The overriding rule is SAFETY FIRST. Don’t step out onto a main road and don’t remove grid covers unsupervised. Side streets are safer, but don’t lift a grille and leave it off – that’s dangerous.

You might be able to reach down with your hand and retrieve objects – drains aren’t always as deep as you might think, and often have traps in them too. A child’s fishing net or a hook taped to a cane might be enough to lift it out.

If this all fails and you really want the item back, get in touch with you local authority in the area and see if they can help. It’s possible they won’t be able to or will charge for their services, in which case you could try local domestic drainage companies. Obviously, the amount you’re willing to pay will depend on how deep your pockets are and how much you want the thing, but they will have the tools to do the job.

That’s what the average person should do, anyway; but the average person won’t get on Celebrity Big Brother. It’s your call

The local press has been in something of a fever over the past week or two about the perils of pouring cooking oil down the drain. And when we say local, we mean all those free local newspapers that pop through British people’s doors – and their related websites. They all refer to a YouGov report (which we’ve not been able to track down) that says something along the lines of: “X per cent of [insert local town] residents pour their cooking oil down the drain and Y per cent don’t know that they will have to pay for damage.” Here are a few examples for your delectation, from as far afield as Blackpool and Gloucestershire.

While we suspect this might be more of a PR exercise than actual news (there are plenty of mentions of one particular company, let’s just say), at the core of the story is a truth that we in the drain cleaning industry have long known: people do dispose of too much fat down the drains.

Now let’s get one thing clear – it’s impossible to never let any oil go down the drain. Every time you wash a frying pan or a plate that’s had food on it, it’s inevitable that oil and grease will be washed away. Householders and businesses might mitigate the effects by using detergents that break the oils down, and the amounts are often rather small too, but even if we think we’re being careful, it’s not impossible for a build-up to start.

We all know that butter, sandwich spread and lard are solids when they’re in the fridge, but melt at quite low temperatures – and that many oils and fats will return to solid form when they cool down to room temperature after being heated up. Well that’s exactly what happens to oils when we put them down the sink, where they can go from being liquid on the pan or plate to solid as soon as they hit the cool waste water underground. While we need to be mindful, under normal circumstances this won’t be a problem, largely thanks to the washing-up liquids and dishwasher tablets we use.

The real danger comes when people pour used oil straight down the sink, for example when they have been sautéing or doing a Sunday roast. We might even forget just how much oil or butter there is in gravy or béchamel sauce and pour any excess down the sink. But worst of all are those who will empty their deep-fat fryers straight down the kitchen sink. It’s only a matter of time before this practice will result in a blockage.

The “report” is also correct to point out that blockages are not always the responsibility of the local authorities or water companies –quite often it’s the householder who has to foot the bill. Landlords are particularly susceptible to unexpected unblocking bills because they might own several properties and with a high turnover of tenants in each, it would be difficult (and unfair) to pin the blame for a blockage on the current resident. At the very least, landlords should include a line about disposing of oil in their contracts. They might also consider installing grease traps, too.

So we say to the good people of Blackpool, Halifax, Gloucestershire, Hucknall, Swindon ... “Stop and think – not down the sink” (the official mantra, apparently). It’s much better to get an old cooking oil bottle and a funnel and use it to keep your used oils. Many local authority recycling yards will now take it, and it can be burnt as a clean source of energy, so you’ll not only be avoiding blocked drains – you’ll be helping the planet too.

Consumer group Which? has revealed that many customers are unaware that when they sign up for water pipe insurance that it only covers basic servicing, which could leave them open to expensive sewer drainage issues further down the line.

It is costing consumers £100million a year in “unnecessary” cover when free pipe repair schemes are often available from these water companies.

The repair work is not altogether thorough either, according to the CEO at Drain Claim, David Hayes, who said:

“On a daily basis we are seeing the home insurance industry wriggling out of countless drainage insurance claims by using the term ‘serviceable’, a term that we have yet to find a definition for in any home insurance policy documents.

“As far as the innocent insurance customer is concerned the word ‘serviceable’ does not exist when they take out their policies and yet it is being wielded more and more by insurers to convince customers that serious drainage problems can be resolved with a cheap sticking plaster style repair.

“This risky solution leaves customers vulnerable to even greater sewage problems in the future.”

When it comes to sewer problems, it is always worth speaking to the specialists as a reputable drainage contractor will be able to tell you exactly what solution is needed, and perform the right level of repair to prevent any costly situations in the near future.

Local firms in West Didsbury can now get on with their trading again after regional water company United Utilities announced the end of large scale drainage maintenance works as part of their River Mersey improvements scheme.

Since the start of January Burton Road had been closed to allow for the building of a new sewer overflow chamber. Last Wednesday the road was made accessible again, meaning relief for those using the busy junction with Lapwing Lane and Cavendish Road.

The water company has made a point of praising local traders for their understanding while the £1.4 million project was being carried out by the drainage engineers.

Project manager at United Utilities, Gary Marsh, said:

“It’s great news for everyone in West Didsbury that we’ve got Burton Road open again, in time for the Easter weekend.

“We had to overcome some hurdles, including redesigning parts of our work to avoid gas pipes and telephone cables. But the team have really pulled out all the stops, working weekends, to make sure we finished on time.

“We know the work has been disruptive, and I’d like to say a big thank you to local people for their patience.”