Drains and sewers


A drain is a pipe that carries sewage and/or surface water from a single property.  They are often referred to as private drains because responsibility for clearance and maintenance lies with the owner of the property.

Lateral drains

A lateral drain is that part of a private drain outside the boundary of a property to the point at which it connects with a sewer.


A sewer is a pipeline carrying sewage and/or surface water from more than one property.

How to tell if your drains are blocked

If your drain is blocked you will usually know because your waste will stop going away when you flush the toilet, or gullies outside will overflow.

There will also probably be a smell around drains and inspection chambers.

If none of your neighbours are affected then the likelihood is that your drain is blocked.

If your neighbours are also affected it is likely that there is a problem on the sewer.

What to do if your drains are blocked

Responsibility for the clearance of blockages in and repairs to private drains usually lies with the property owner.

Check first to see if you are covered by any insurance schemes you may have.

If you cannot clear the blockage yourself, you can contact a specialist drainage contractor or plumber to clear the drain and/or carry out any repairs.

What to do if there is a blocked or defective sewer

Responsibility for the clearance of blockages in and repairs to most drains outside your property boundary (lateral drains) and most sewers will normally be the responsibility of United Utilities.

If you think you have a problem on a lateral drain or sewer, you should report it to United Utilities.

Alternatively, our Environmental Health Team may be able to discuss the matter to offer clarification and in unusual cases we may carry out a site investigation.

Rented accommodation

If you live in rented accommodation and have a drainage problem, contact your landlord or Housing Association.


If your problem relates to a drainage issue on a neighbouring property that is not being dealt with, officers of the Council may be able to investigate and refer the matter to the appropriate agency or take enforcement action where appropriate (phone 0161 770 2244).

Issues that are not the responsibility of United Utilities or the Council

Pipes and equipment that will not be the responsibility of United Utilities or the Council include:

  • Water supply pipes within your property boundary
  • Existing surface water sewers that do not drain to a public sewer.
  • Privately owned sewage treatment works and pipes connected to them.
  • Privately owned septic tanks and cesspits

However, if you experience a problem with any of these, we may be able to offer advice or help.

If you have water in your garden that is related to a watercourse, you should contact the Environment Agency on 0800 80 70 60.

Environmental Health Team
Chadderton Town Hall
Middleton Road
Oldham, OL9 6PP
Tel 0161 770 2244
Fax 0161 770 3444