Public Sewer Connections Explained
It’s probably not a subject many people think about, but our drains and sewers are a vital part of our everyday lives; allowing us to live in hygienic, safe and sanitary conditions. Sewers have actually been used since around 4000 BCE, but it wasn’t until the 19th century that large cities such as London were given an upgrade of their public sewer systems, changing them into the type of system we see today.
Before the advancement of a public sewage system, most waste was either recycled as fertilizer or simply thrown into the Thames, contaminating the water supply and leading to a rapid spread of diseases such as cholera. Luckily, we don’t have these issues in this modern age, but it’s still important to ensure that any new builds are properly connected to the nearest mains sewerage system.
These connections affect more people than you might think; from businesses building a brand new office or public service building, to homeowners thinking about adding an extension to their property. If you’d like to know more about public sewer connections, and the laws and regulations surrounding them, read on for our handy guide.
What is a public sewer connection?
A sewer is simply a pipe which serves more than one property, and public sewers are owned and maintained by various local water companies, such as Wessex Water or Thames Water. As the name suggests, a public sewer connection is simply the way that pipes in a new property or extension are connected to the main public sewer pipe, and there are three different types of connection available.
A junction connection is used to connect either one or two domestic properties, and if the sewer is less than 300mm in diameter. A saddle connection is suitable for one or two domestic properties if the sewer is larger than 300mm in diameter, and a manhole is used for any commercial property, or if you need a connection for more than two domestic properties.
You’ll need to obtain consent from your local authority or water company before making a public sewer connection; we will discuss the full rules and regulations in more detail further on.
The connection process
Before the connection can be agreed, you’ll need to know where the connection is being made, which of the three connection types it is, and who owns the public sewer in question. As well as three different connections, there are also three different types of sewers that it’s possible to connect to. A foul water sewer is used to carry wastewater away from appliances such as lavatories, showers, washing machines and dishwashers. The second type is known as a surface water sewer; this carries rainwater from rooftops, driveways, roads and pavements, and there’s also a combined sewer, which carries both surface water and wastewater.
Foul water pipes cannot be connected to a surface water sewer, as these discharge into rivers and streams, meaning that the water could become contaminated. In rare cases, surface water can be connected to a foul water sewer, although this is usually discouraged as it can cause a risk of flooding.
Once the right type of sewer has been identified, you’ll need to find a suitable connection point. These are often listed on maps of the local area, but most people will choose to hire a drain contractor to identify a suitable public sewer connection. You’ll then need to identify who owns the public sewer you plan to connect to, and obtain their permission before the connection can go ahead.
Once a connection point has been identified, whoever is proposing the connection will need to create detailed drawings to show their plans. Again, most people choose to use a drainage specialist to prepare these, as you’ll need to include the type of connection, the location, the size of both the connection and sewer, the method of connection (manhole, junction or saddle), and details of planning conditions if necessary. The final step is filling in an online application form (similar to this one here), with your details and the proposed connection plans.
Who might require a public sewer connection?
Both domestic and commercial builds are subject to the same rules and regulations when it comes to public sewer connections, and there are several different situations and building types which we will discuss below.
Domestic homeowners building an extension
Some home extensions require planning permission depending on their size, and if you’re thinking of adding a kitchen or bathroom extension then you’ll also need permission to connect to a public sewer. Even if you’re building an extension with no water pipe requirements, you’ll need to make sure that you’re not building over any existing underground drains or sewers, as this can damage the pipes.
If there’s an existing drain below, or close to, your planned extension, then it may have to be moved or rerouted, or alternatively you may have to rethink the size or placement of the extension.
As you might imagine, an entire domestic new build will be much more complicated than an extension, and the new house or flat block will need to be properly connected to the public sewer system. If there’s more than one new property being built, it’s common for them to share a sewer connection, although separate connections will need to be made for both the foul and surface water sewers.
Increasing the size of a roof on any property will require additional gutters and rainwater pipes, and you may find that new surface water connections are needed to cope with the increased amount of rainwater flowing from the roof. It’s important that surface water is directed away from the roof, to prevent damage to the foundations and surrounding area. A consultation with a drain contractor will be able to give you an idea of whether any new connections are required.
Rules and regulations
As mentioned above, there are several things you’ll need to identify before you apply, including the type or connection, the location, and a plan of the proposed drainage route. It’s illegal to make a public sewer connection without approval from your local water company (or whoever you apply to), so it’s essential that you wait for permission before going ahead.
In most cases, approval will be given or denied within 21 days of the receipt of the application, and water companies hold the power to shut down any illegal connections they may find. There are also laws dictating the required size and depth of the sewer pipes; this will vary depending on where the pipe is placed, and whether it carries foul water or surface water.
There are also regulations surrounding the type of material used; whether it be clay, concrete, or plastic, and a suitable test (e.g a CCTV drain survey) will need to be carried out to demonstrate that the pipes are suitable for the long term. There are also laws in place to ensure that a sewer system is not damaged before work goes ahead; this is essential to prevent the chances of doing any further damage during the connection.
If you’re looking for professional drainage consultants for help and advice regarding public sewer connections, get in touch with Drainage Consultants Limited. Our expert team has a wealth of experience and techniques when it comes to installing mains sewerage connections. We’re able to identify the right type of connection for any situation, and can even create new connections in brick sewers, by drilling into the existing structure or removing bricks.
We also offer a full range of drainage services, including sewer maintenance, sewer pipe lining, sewer line installation, CCTV drain surveys, drain mapping, and much more.
To find out more about any of our drainage services, or to make an appointment, give us a call today or visit our website.