Category Archives: Water Companies

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

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.

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.

 

Surprise visitor: squatting wombat blocks stormwater pipe

There are many things that could block a stormwater drain. But a wombat?

blocked rain water drain

Imagine the surprise on the faces of the people at the Launceston City Council when they stumbled across a furry critter while viewing video from a stormwater pipe survey recently.

The shy little squatter was discovered by engineering development officer Sonia Smith, The Examiner reports.

Ms Smith said that one of the tasks council asked developers to undertake when building a new subdivision was to ensure all their stormwater pipes were working.

“They do that by conducting a remote video camera survey, and they then send the videos into us,” Ms Smith said.

“The equipment they use is basically a remote controlled camera, driven by a joystick.

“Sometimes in these videos you see the odd rat or spider, but this is the first time I’ve seen a wombat.”

Ms Smith said the wombat found his or her way into the pipe because it was open at one end.

“It’s a 300mm pipe, which is the smallest we use, but it appears that it might be a perfect size for a wombat burrow,” she said.

Ms Smith said the wombat will be respectfully nudged on to a new burrow and access to the pipe will be blocked.

A pensioner is urging others to challenge water company’s bills

A pensioner who has seen her surface water drainage charge rescinded has called on Yorkshire Water to clarify the rules over who should pay the rate and why.

Jean Pearson, 66, of Dewhirst Close, Baildon, challenged the charge after reading a letter in the Telegraph & Argus questioning why it existed at all.

rain water tax
Bradford-based Yorkshire Water has called on residents to contact them if they believe they are not connected to the surface water drainage system, to make sure customers are paying the right amount.

But Mrs Pearson has said the water company should already know who is connected and has criticised them for not explaining well enough what the £40-per-year charge is for.

She said: “They’ve dropped my charge – if they have dropped mine they have got to drop hundreds of others all across the district and beyond because why am I different?

“There’s hundreds of people living in the same type of flats like me – there’s a hundred around here so that’s £4,000 they are getting from just around here.

“So they have to quantify what is surface water drainage. How are we to identify what runs into what? There are sewers and grates all over.

“And the fact remains they have dropped my charge simply because I rang them and questioned them.

“Sewage is a separate charge, it’s itemised on the bill. The water from all properties ends up in the ground or in the water sewerage system, so what is the charge for?”

Mrs Pearson’s MP, Philip Davies, has also taken up her cause and contacted Yorkshire Water and Ofwat about the charge.

Yorkshire Water have now said they are sending officers to assess whether Mrs Pearson’s neighbours are connected.

Dean Stewart, regulatory service manager at Yorkshire Water, said the charge was for removing rain water from properties, which would otherwise cause flooding.

He said: “So every single household pays the same amount because we can’t measure how much rainwater goes back into the sewerage system.

“Because it’s rainwater, clearly there’s no way we could possibly do that, so we need a definite broad charge.

“All domestics are charged exactly the same amount, if they actually have surface water drainage.

“If they don’t have any surface water drainage then we don’t charge them at all – it could just run off to a soakaway, or they could have a big back garden.”

Mr Stewart said since the year 2000, when it was included in the overall sewage charge, the water company had separated the rate on customers’ bills and included leaflets urging those who think they may not use the system to contact them to prevent them from subsidising those who do use it.

A move which, he warned, could lead to other customers seeing an increase in their bills.

He said: “We actually want to know because we want to make sure customers are paying the right amount.

“We set the charge in the following years – what we would do is take into account there are fewer people paying that tariff, so the cost overall could go up for those that are actually connected.

“So we could argue that those that are not connected but are paying it are basically subsidising those.”

Residents who feel they may not need to pay the rate have been asked to contact Yorkshire Water on 0845 1242 424.

Woman ‘left in fear as rats invade her home’

A WOMAN was left distraught and in fear for her health after what her family said was a bungled plumbing job which led to a rat infestation in her housing association property. 

Stella Cook, 76, has been a tenant of York-based Yorkshire Housing – formerly the Ryedale Housing Association – for almost 20 years. 

She was shocked when her Flaxton cottage was overrun with the dangerous rodents after the organisation fitted a new toilet. 

A concerned relative of Mrs Cook contacted The Press to voice anger at Yorkshire Housing’s handling of the problem. 

They claimed that Mrs Cook discovered a plumber, sent by her landlords to fit the toilet, had accidentally left a drain uncovered. 

Since then, they said, she had seen several rats in almost every room in the house, including her bedroom. 

The asthma sufferer paid for pest control herself, amid claims the housing association refused to temporarily relocate her away from the one-bedroom property. 

According to the family member, who wishes to remain anonymous, the only help offered was for the agency to come and collect the dead animals once they had been poisoned – yet three rats remained at large in the bungalow. 

The relative said: “She’s frightened out of her wits. 

“They say there’s only so much they can do until the rats are dead – but they won’t consider moving her.” 

The rodents, which can spread fatal infections such as Weil’s disease, pose a health hazard. 

Mrs Cook’s family has now offered her accommodation in their own homes until the situation is resolved. 

Yorkshire Housing HomeWorks did not directly respond to the family’s claims that plumbers had left a drain cover open, and that it would not consider rehousing Mrs Cook. 

However, Phil Royales, Head of Yorkshire Housing HomeWorks said: “We regret that Mrs Cook has experienced rats in her home.

“We are aware that rats do live in the vicinity of Mrs Cook’s home and have liaised with Mrs Cook to manage the situation. 

“Yorkshire Housing Contractors have visited her home in response to calls to our Repairs Helpdesk, and advised Mrs Cook to contact Environmental Health or Pest Control to humanely catch the rats, as per our usual procedures. 

“We will continue to work with Mrs Cook to find a solution,” said Mr Royales.

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