Private Sewers [Long and boring post!]

A few months ago there was a thread started by someone with a manhole in his garden which neither served his property nor was part of the public sewer system. A discussion took place about responsibility for clearing and maintaining this sewer.
[What follows isn't strictly d-i-y but it might nevertheless be of interest to d-i-y-ers.]
I have recently become acutely aware of this problem as a result of a manhole flooding in a neighbour's garden. I live on the corner of an estate, in the last house in a row of 4 detached houses - all built in the 1960's. There are houses on the other side of the road opposite us, and also further up the road on the same side - but with a gap of 100 metres or so. Our 4 houses are served by a private sewer with starts at the first house, and flows beneath our front gardens - where it joins into the public sewer on the extreme edge of my property. So far, so good . . .
The first house in the row also has a manhole in the *back* garden. A couple of weeks ago, this manhole overflowed due to a blockage downstream. The owner lives in USA, and the house is let via an agency. The tenant notified the agent who assumed that the manhole served the property in question, and called in a private contractor who tried but failed to clear it. The contractor subsequently stated that it was probably a public sewer - and that Severn Trent would need to be called to clear it.
Severn Trent duly arrived, said it wasn't one of theirs, and refused to touch it unless someone undertook to pay them - which the tenant wasn't willing to do. Severn Trent recommended that the tenant should contact the Environmental Health Department from the local council - on the basis that effluent swilling round the back garden was a health risk to his young children.
The Environmental Health Inspector duly arrived, and declared that it was part of a private sewer which served 13 properties further up the road. The owners of these 13 properties were jointly responsible for getting it cleared. The council thus served notice on these 13 owners, requiring them to clear the blockage within 48 hours - failing which, the council would arrange for it to be cleared and pass on the cost to the 13 owners. Needless to say, the 13 owners didn't clear it - and the council subsequently employed a contractor who did clear it. Immediately following the clearing exercise, the contractor put a camera into the sewer and discovered that the bottom of the pipe had collapsed, about 13 metres downstream from the manhole - which is just in the garden of the adjoining house. No-one seemed to know exactly where this sewer went - except that it must join into the public sewer somewhere in the vicinity. I have a manhole at the far end of my back garden which is part of the public sewer system. [The public sewer actually flows under my garden, just beyond my house, from front to back and onwards across a field at the back]. Whilst the blockage was being cleared, I lifted the lid of my rear manhole - and all the cleared effluent was flowing through it - indicating that this private sewer must connect into the public sewer somewhere under my garden - even though I knew nothing about it.
As a result of discovering the collapsed sewer, the council has now served notice on the owners of the 13 properties at the top of the road - requiring them to get it repaired. This opens up a whole can of worms! In order to repair it, they will potentially have to dig up the garden of someone who is definitely not served by this sewer, but who is just unfortunate enough to have it going under his garden. For all I know, they may even wish to dig up *my* garden. Once they have repaired the known problem, they may find others - they could only survey it as far as the collapsed bit, whereupon the camera fell down the hole. If they *did* want to dig up my garden, this would cause me a major problem because it has only recently had a total refurb - including re-building and extending the fish pond. For all I know, this private sewer - which I didn't know existed until a short while ago - might pass right under my pond!
If they do want to dig up my garden, it could give rise to some interesting legal arguments. According to my deeds, I am obliged to provide access to permit the repair and maintenance of any services (cables, water pipes, gas pipes, sewers, etc.) which are shared with adjoining properties. However, this particular service doesn't serve my property, so *I* don't share it with anybody. Nor does it serve any of the *adjoining* properties - there being a gap of at least 100 metres between our row and the first house which it *does* serve. I shall thus vigorously resist any attempt to disturb my garden, and will insist that they re-route the private sewer to join into the public sewer in the field at the back rather than under my garden. Watch this space!
Sorry to have gone on for so long - but I just wanted to illustrate the fact that it is not impossible to have manholes in your garden belonging to a private sewer which *doesn't* serve your property - and that all sorts of complications can result from this!
Roger
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It's an excellent post and facinating too boot.
Thank you - I look forward to reading subsequent posts.
Mary
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Any property that was served by something also serving your own would be adjoining by virtue of being adjoined by the service in question. The fact that the properties are detached is not relevant. As the service doesn't serve your property the argument about "adjoining" is also therefore irrelevant. The previous sentence covers everything in question. The final sentence adds nothing further.
I shall thus vigorously resist any attempt to disturb my

If a service passes under your land which doesn't serve your property then there should be a wayleave or an easement (a lump sum payment buying out a wayleave for a number of years) to cover it and this should be mentioned in the deeds. It may be that you now need to negotiate a wayleave with the services provider if this has been overlooked previously.
Dave Baker - Puma Race Engines (www.pumaracing.co.uk) One's taste in music is the key that fits the lock of each individual person's psyche.
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I *think* you are agreeing with me in my contention that the clause requiring me to provide maintenance access for services shared with adjoining properties doesn't apply in this case?
OK, I might originally have used a few more words than strictly necessary, to say it.
Roger
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On Thu, 10 Jul 2003 22:57:53 UTC, snipped-for-privacy@aol.comma (Dave Baker) wrote:

Shared sewers prior to 1937 are the responsibility of the water company. Much to my relief one hot summer two or three years ago when the inspection chamber where the two properties' sewers join, was filled with sewage. Hot day, full to the brim. I was nearly physically sick and I hadn't even disturbed the surface. Water company came out within the hour and cleared it. We were lucky and were upstream; all we'd seen was a slower emptying downstairs loo; the neighbour flushed the one upstairs and it shot out of the downstairs one...
However, we recently discovered a hatch under a rockery we just removed (to make space for concrete shed base; see thread on plastic sheds!). We were able to modify the base to avoid it, but it strikes me it may give us a similar problem to the OP...no idea where it comes from or goes. Oh well, it's the weekend soon...
--
Bob Eager
rde at tavi.co.uk
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wrote:

to which I referred in my original post were built in the 1960's.
Roger
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On Fri, 11 Jul 2003 09:08:11 UTC, "Roger Mills"

Yes, I realise that....we went off at a tangent! Useful to someone I hope...
But your original post got me thinking about the inspection cover we found under our rockery. And it was quite useful and thought provoking...
--
Bob Eager
rde at tavi.co.uk
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