Blocked drains - who is responsible?


The property owner is responsible for three types of drainage:


  • Internal plumbing, including all above ground pipework that enters a private or shared drain. Includes gutters and soil pipes.
  • Private drains; which are the drainage pipes that serve one property within your property boundary.
  • Shared private drains, which are the drainage pipes that serve multiple properties at one location such as a block of flats, caravan park, business parks, university campuses, hospitals, etc.


You will need to determine whether the problem is affecting just your property. You can do this by talking to your neighbours and/or by lifting any inspection chambers and seeing if they are full. You can then use the information above to see whose responsibility it is to clear the blockage.


In some systems the drain is for discharge of waste fluids, such as the drain in a sink in which the water is drained when it is no longer needed.


In the United Kingdom, plumbers refer to waste water as 'bad water'. This is under the premise that the water they are moving from one area to another via the use of a drain is not needed and can be removed from the area, like a 'bad apple' being removed from a fruit bowl.


In other systems, such as fountains or swimming pools where waste fluid is recirculated, the drain is the input to the recirculating pumping machine.


In the last case, there is an obvious safety issue, because many people do not expect to encounter more than the head of water above the drain when touching a drain. For example, in a recent case, a lifeguard went to the bottom of a pool to retrieve something and his hand got stuck because of the extra pressure from the pump. When there is a recirculating pump, the risk of suction consists of the head of water, plus the suction of the pump (up to a maximum of 1 atmosphere).

Fatalities have occurred around drains as a result of this suction entrapment or Duct Entanglement. In these situations, a portion of the body, hair, or clothing may become stuck against the drain and may become impossible to release, resulting in drowning.


Properly designed drains in swimming pools and spas mitigate this effect by either adding multiple drains, or increasing the surface area of the drain opening, with the use of many holes or safety covers. Since drain suction increases rapidly when a portion of the drain opening is blocked, having two drains or a larger drain inlet allows alternate suction paths for the pump. Swimming pool safety devices are available to automatically turn off an operating pump if a rapid increase in suction is detected (as could happen during a suction entrapment incident).




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