National Drainage Misconnection Day

March 24, 2021

National Drainage Misconnection Day strives to raise awareness about a significant contributor to river pollution: misconnections

For the most part, our drainage system works pretty well.

Our wastewater (the water from appliances e.g. dish washers, toilets and sinks) is connected to a waste water sewer, which diverts the water to a sewage treatment works. This water is then purified through different processes before being released back into the natural environment.

water is extracted from the natural environment — we use that water — our wastewater (water that has been used) is sent to the sewage treatment works — the water is purified — that water is returned to the natural environment 

Rainwater, on the other hand, falls into a surface water sewer, where it is runs directly into a waterway. 

it rains — water goes into the surface water sewer — the water runs to the nearest waterway — that water enters the water cycle 

On paper, it is a foolproof system.

Yet there are issues when the two drains are mixed up, or misconnected.

Sometimes wastewater pipes are connected to a surface water sewer, meaning that the untreated water flows straight into a waterway.

Domestic wastewater contains contaminants that can have an adverse impact on the environment, but also our health. A lot of the pollutants come from our faeces, which contain intestinal disease organisms such as E coli; conventional cleaning products and detergents contain harsh chemicals, which disrupt the natural ecosystem; and the items that are flushed down the toilet (such as sanitary items, wet wipes, and cotton buds), which create blockages and pollute the natural environment.

At a sewage treatment plant, such pollutants are treated until the water is deemed fit to return back into the natural environment. Yet if our drains are misconnected, it means that these contaminants escape directly into the natural environment.

In the UK, it is estimated that between 150,000 and 500,000 houses have drain misconnections and that 15% of rivers in England and Wales have failed water quality standards as a result of these misconnections.

So, what next?

Connect Right suggest the following:

  • Check if your house or property was built after the 1920s, as most misconnections occur in older buildings.
  • Investigate whether any changes have been made to the original drainage
  • If there have been any extensions or alterations, new bathrooms, toilets or kitchens installed, make sure that they have been connected to the correct drain
  • Look at all your pipes and make sure that they are not connected to the rainwater downpipes 

If you are not connected to the public sewer and rely on a septic tank or private sewage treatment plant, you can also make a difference by making sure that your septic tank or private sewage treatment plant is properly maintained:

  • Get to know your system and regularly inspect the soakaway that it discharges to
  • Check that the soakaway isn’t waterlogged and that there are no pools of water running in to ditches or watercourse
  • Keep the bacteria in your septic tank or private sewage treatment plant happy through choosing products that avoid harsh chemicals (such as Bio-D, Ecover, Clean Living and Elm Kind)

Though maintaining sewer systems might not be the most attractive of tasks, it can make a huge difference for rivers, wildlife and our health. 

Check out our pledge system for more information on more actions you can take to promote clean and healthy rivers.

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