All posts by Joe Flow

Drainage Engineer

Is Certified Training Needed In The UK Drainage Industry ?

There has been quite a bit of heated debate on several of the social media sites with regards to whether Certified Drain Camera Survey training courses are really necessary within the domestic drainage industry. As a drainage engineer myself and owner/developer of www.DrainDomain.Com I thought I would put down my thoughts on the subject

Through the DrainDomain.com website I am often asked to collapse02review drain inspection survey reports, this can be simply to provide a second opinion on the report findings or on occasions to help mediate between two parties in a dispute. I am also still active as a surveyor myself undertaking 300+ surveys last year with the following two anecdotes occurring in the last 18 months

Example One

A guy in the South East employs a local independent contractor to undertake a home buyers drain inspection on a property he is looking to purchase, the drain report comes back stating all is structurally sound but the system requires high pressure water jetting to remove deposits of grease and fat.

The chap then buys and moves into the property and within 6 weeks has a blockage, a second contractor attends site and tells the home owner he has problems as the system is constructed from Pitch Fibre pipe work and it requires renewal

I was then sent the original report and video files from the pre-purchase survey where you can clearly see that the pipe work between each chamber is indeed Pitch Fibre, the deposits of grease and fat reported by the original surveyor are internal blisters on the pipe wall stained with grease after numerous blockages

I know for a fact that the home owner took legal action on this matter and recouped both the survey costs and the costs of the necessary repairs on the basis that he was denied the opportunity to negotiate these costs off the original property sale price

Example Two

During the conversion of a large city centre building into a Hotel two developers went bust, both developers had employed two of the larger national drainage contractors to undertake full site mapping and charting exercises, both contractors had submitted differing reports on the condition and lay out of the combined drainage system

A third developer then took over the project and I was asked to re-survey and map out the system, the first thing we noticed was that the drainage beneath the foot print of the property was not cast iron pipe work as reported in the two earlier reports, it was our old friend Pitch Fibre

To be fair the Pitch Fibre was in very good condition as it was beneath the basement car-park and it only had rain water passing through it, the problem on this site was that this area was been converted into the hotel kitchen and the pipe work would be subject to large volumes of hot water and steam, the Pitch Fibre pipe work would not have lasted more than a couple years before it required renewal

These two examples are typical of what I see time after time from drainage firms of all sizes, if surveyors are getting the basics such as pipe construction, pipe size and drainage system layout wrong how can they be trusted to give accurate information on degrees of displacement to joints, fracturing and water tightness in general

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All the above clients experienced and paid for a poor service which is never acceptable. As a contractor myself I would be just as concerned that there are surveyors out there who missed out on approximately 13k of drain lining repairs over the two sites

The UK Drainage Industry needs some set basic standards of training across all disciplines in order to raise the levels of service and to weed out the cowboy element

Rat Control and Pest Controllers

Its widely acknowledged that the rat population is on the increase due to several factors including the climate, their increasing resistance to poisons and the fact that many water companies and local authorities have cut back on sewer baiting contracts.

The cases of rat activity within properties is also on the increase as our adventurous fury friends find long established defective or poorly installed drainage systems that give them direct access beneath or adjacent to house floors and foundations.

Clearly the first phone call any hapless home owner will make after seeing evidence of rat activity or on hearing scratching noises in the walls or ceiling will be to a pest control contractor, and rightly so but how many pest control contractors are delivering a satisfactory service.

Any pest control contractor worthy of the title will look around the property for any obvious signs of access prior to laying bait or rat traps, if there are no signs of external entry and the rat ingress continues over several weeks or months surely pest control contractors should be steering the property owner towards a drain camera inspection.

It is estimated that 90% of rat ingress to properties is due to defective drainage systems yet we are contacted at www.draindomain.com on a weekly basis by people who have suffered months if not years of rat problems but have never been advised  to have the drains inspected.

There are certainly many pest control contractors who work with drainage companies in order to resolve a rat ingress problem as quickly as possible for the home owner, sadly though there are just as many who are happy to return to a property month after month rather than take the investigations to the next level.

Rather worryingly there was a recent post on Twitter by probably the UKs biggest pest control company giving their top ten tips to prevent rat ingress to properties,  there was not one mention of a defective drainage system or a drain camera inspection in the entire article.

Read more here on rat ingress to properties and how to prevent or cure it

 

Change The Way We Buy & Sell Properties in 2014 ?

It appears that the property market is on the up and houses are selling again so is now the time to change how we buy and sell our homes.

As it stands the potential buyer has to pay to have numerous surveys undertaken which can and does lead to several thousands of pounds of outlay, if the survey results are not favourable the purchaser will at the very least start to negotiate the expected costs of any remedial works off the asking price, in the worst case scenario they will walk away from the sale and start the flawed process all over again with another property.

Surely it would make sense if the vendor had all the survey works undertaken before the house went on the market and the cost of the surveys could be added to the asking price, the vendor could then decide whether to have any necessary works carried out in order to meet the maximum property value or to sell as seen at a price reflecting the condition of the property at that time

Read more on this article at draindomain.com 

 

 

 

 

 

Rats, Traps, Bugs and Cutbacks

If ever there was an argument for councils cutting free pest control for the masses then surely the BBCs Panorama programme on Monday 6th August Rats, Traps, Bugs and Cutbacks was it.

Firstly we had a Southwark Council employed pest controller making numerous visits to put poison down in a rat infested bin store just yards from a defective drain, the rats were shown coming and going at their own leisure from the said drain at ground level, was I the only one shouting `fix the bloody drain` at the TV.

Then we had a lady who lets her rabbit run around the garden dragging straw, hay and no doubt rabbit food with it complaining about rats invading her garden at night and finally a guy keeping chickens or some kind of fowl in a pen at the bottom of the garden getting subsidised pest control visits due to rat problems.

Instead of throwing millions of pounds away on rat baiting how about some basic education on the kind of habits that are likely to attract rats into your home and garden, if people persist in throwing scraps of food on the ground, letting bins overflow or scattering bird seed around then they should be liable for any pest control required and not the tax payers in general.

How about we maintain and repair our drainage and sewer systems so that the majority of rats are contained within the networks and where the available food source will determine the size of the rat population, and where incidentally it would be easier to bait and control them.

Super grease behind drop in Birmingham manhole cover thefts

METAL thieves look to have met their match after the launch of a unique DNA-style grease marker sparked a 75 per cent drop in manhole covers thefts in Birmingham.

The city council and Amey, which holds the local authority’s road maintenance contract, acted in March having seen 900 grates go missing in just six months.
stop manhole theft
The thefts had left the council taxpayer with a £250,000 bill.

But there has been a dramatic fall in the number of gratings taken thanks to a special type of grease, called RedWeb.

It leaves an indelible mark visible only under ultraviolet light on the cover itself and anyone who touches it.

In the three months before the launch of the RedWeb grease, 32 gully grates were taken from roads in five wards in the north of the city.

That fell to just eight in the same area in the three months since the introduction of the product

Sergeant Phil Butler, from West Midlands Police’s Operation Steel which targets metal theft, said: “We have been delighted to see a reduction in reported metal theft.

“Improved marking of target materials reduces crime as it’s far easier for police to prove theft and handling beyond a reasonable doubt.’’

Amey Business director John Sunderland said: “We are thrilled that we have had such an instant result with the new product that we are using to deter thieves and this is just the beginning.

“Theft of metal, such as gully covers, from the roads is not a victimless crime as open gully covers are extremely dangerous.”

Amey has also trialed composite recycled plastic covers with no resale value as replacements for the stolen metal covers.

The plastic covers can also be sealed in to prevent further vandalism or theft.

Coun James McKay, cabinet member for a green, safe and smart city, said: “This is a great result for partnership working and sends a stark message to thieves.

“We will simply not tolerate them stealing metal from our roads and putting people’s lives at risk.”

Flood risk to millions in UK is growing

MILLIONS of property owners face an increased risk from flooding because of climate change and urban sprawl, experts have warned.

 New research shows up to two million people in the UK – including almost 130,000 Scots – are at risk of flooding because they live in built-up areas where there is limited drainage and less grass and woodland to soak up rainfall.

The research, carried out at Dundee University and to be presented to the Royal Geographical Society this week, predicts that unless planners take climate change into account, the threat could rise by around 50 per cent to affect 3.2 million by 2050.

The flood risk warnings have emerged following Met Office confirmation that April to June 2012 has been the wettest on record. Last week, parts of England were over-run by flash floods, and rail services to Scotland cut off after landslips on both the east and west coast mainlines. Yesterday, services between Edinburgh and London were still being restricted but rail chiefs said the timetable should be back to normal today.

The Dundee research says climate change is leading to greater rainfall, while a growing population and, in particular, more people moving to cities is triggering greater urbanisation.

Dr Alastair Geddes, of Dundee University, said: “We will see more people exposed by living in areas of risk because of strong population growth.

“There are two main trends – population growth and climate change. However, we can’t take account of how planners will work to change drainage systems.

“It’s important to take action on that. That’s what we hope will come out of this work.”

The researchers initially looked at 44 cities across the UK, including Edinburgh and Glasgow, and then examined three more closely.

In Glasgow, one of the three, they found that 63,927 people are currently at risk of flooding from heavy rainfall – 5.5 per cent.

Across Scotland 2.6 per cent of the urban population was found to be at risk, while across the UK as a whole it was 3.3 per cent.

Rats forced into homes as sewers fill up

RATS are being forced above ground into homes and restaurants as city sewers fill up with rainwater.

Pest controllers in Brighton and Hove have reported an increase in calls about the rodents over the last few months, which have been some of the wettest on record.

Experts say the lack of a harsh winter in recent years had helped the rodent population to soar.

And the heavy downpours that have led to flooding in recent months have sent rats scurrying for higher ground – and into people’s homes.

One local Pest Control contractor  said he was receiving around five calls a week about rats, almost twice as many as last year.

He said: “The rain hasn’t dampened the rodent’s spirits. They’re thriving.

“The fact that we have had no harsh winters recently is a contributing factor as there is no death rate in these rats and they can reproduce quickly and  recent heavy rainfall had filled sewers up, pushing the rats out of drains and into buildings in search of food.

He said: “Compared to last year I’ve seen an increase in the amount of Rodenticide I have had to buy. I have been through one 20kg sack in a month and that is a lot for me.

A Brighton and Hove council spokeswoman said: “We have not seen a significant rise in requests for treatment this year.

“We do not believe the recent humid weather has lead to an increase of rat sightings, however, extreme wet weather conditions can lead to overflow from storm drains, causing rats to be displaced, but this is quite unusual.“

Over 400,000 households could face septic tank charge

 MORE than 400,000 households will have to register their septic tanks by February 1 next or face the prospect of being fined up to €5,000.

 septic tank charges

 The Government today announced new rules on septic tanks which will oblige homeowners to make sure they are working properly and not polluting water.

An inspection regime will begin next year, Environment Minister Phil Hogan said, adding it would cost households €5 to register their tank up to September 28 next, after which it would increase to €50.

There will be no charge for inspections.

The inspection regime is being introduced after the European Court of Justice ruled that Ireland was not doing enough to protect drinking water sources.

 Mr Hogan said that in a small number of cases, septic tanks might have to be upgraded. Some financial assistance might be available, he added.

 Registration will last for five years, and there will be no fee for second or subsequent registrations.