Don’t be a drain

A misconnected drain empties sewage into the Pymmes Brook (credit Thames Water)
A misconnected drain empties sewage into the Pymmes Brook (credit Thames Water)

Peter Leedham from community group Pymmes Brookers on how we might be causing pollution inadvertently

A recent High Court case has highlighted the damage being done to our local streams by wrongly connected house drains.

An Enfield landlord had connected the waste water from washing machines, sinks and toilets at several properties to the surface-water drains, causing pollution to pour into Pymmes Brook. He was asked to rectify the problem, refused, and was eventually taken to court where he was ordered to comply. He appealed to the High Court, which has now found against him and instructed him to comply. All in all the case took seven years, cost thousands of pounds, and led to years of pollution.

Pymmes Brook is the stream which flows from Jack’s Lake in Hadley Wood, through Oak Hill Park, Brunswick Open Space, Arnos Park and Tile Kiln Lane Open Space; areas enjoyed by thousands of Enfield residents as well as supporting a variety of wildlife. It is one of the three streams which drain through Enfield borough, the others being Salmon’s Brook and Turkey Brook. They rise in the open country in the north of our borough but for much of their length flow through built-up areas before entering the River Lea. They are all polluted by agricultural run-off, oils and heavy metals from road run-off, plus sewage from misconnected drains.

In our part of London we have two separate sewer systems – one for surface water run-off from roofs and driveways and the other for ‘foul’ water from sinks, toilets, washing machines and other household appliances. The surface water drains empty straight into our streams without any treatment, whereas the foul water is carried to the sewage works for treatment.

Obviously when our houses were built their drains were connected correctly but since then many changes may have taken place – for example by moving a washing machine to an outbuilding or installing an en-suite bathroom. Thames Water estimate that across North London one in ten properties have a misconnection. That amounts to a huge volume of sewage flowing into our lakes and streams.

So whose responsibility is all this? As the recent High Court judgement makes clear, it rests squarely with the property owner, even if the connections were made by a builder, plumber or previous occupant. It makes sense for householders to check their drain connections – making sure that nothing but surface water from gutters, patios and driveways is going into the surface water drain gulleys, and that washing machines, dishwashers, downstairs cloakrooms and en-suite bathrooms have been connected correctly. If there is any doubt, information and advice is available online.

For help with misconnected drains:
Visit connectright.org.uk
Visit thames21.org.uk/plumbing-misconnections

To support community group Pymmes Brookers:
Email [email protected]