Who is responsible for clearing blocked sewers?

The water company to whom you pay your sewage rates is responsible if the blockage is in a public sewer.

In Uttlesford this will be either Anglian Water Services or Thames Water Utilities, depending on where you live. From 1st October 2011 the water companies are also responsible for clearing blockages in private sewers, that is pipework which is shared between two or more properties, and in lateral drains, that is pipework which drains one property but lies outside the curtilage of the property.

An exception to the transfer of responsibility is private pumping stations which form part of the drainage system. These will be transferred progressively to the water companies up to October 2016.

Where pipework serves one property only and is within its curtilage, a blockage or damage will remain the responsibility of the owner(s) of the property.

Private sewage treatment facilities which do not connect with a public sewer remain the responsibility of the current owner.


Can I treat drain blockages myself?

You may be able to deal with a minor blockage and save yourself time and money, if you have the necessary equipment to hand. A medium sized hand plunger should cope with most blocked sinks. You will also need a spanner of the correct size to remove the trap under the sink. A set of drain rods should be sufficient to clear most drains.

Do not use unsuitable equipment, such as lengths of timber, because if they break they can make a problem far more difficult to deal with.

Blockages of a more serious nature will require professional help. Drains can be blocked by tree roots or can collapse due to the weight from above. In such instances, or where the drain cannot be cleared with drain rods, you will need to call a cleansing specialist.


Who should I contact to clear a blockage in a private sewer and who pays?

Specialist companies can be found in "Yellow Pages" under Drain and Pipe. 


Who is responsible if I live in rented accommodation?

You should contact your landlord who will normally be responsible for any drains serving the property, unless your tenancy agreement says otherwise. If the property is council owned, the tenant should contact the council's housing repairs section who will arrange to have the blockage cleared.


What causes blockages and how can I avoid them?

Most blockages are the result of the wrong substances being put down the drain. One of the most common is foodstuffs such as tea leaves or rice. Hot fats, in particular, should never be poured down the sink because they solidify in the sewer. Another common cause is disposable nappies and sanitary towels. These can easily block a sewer and should never be flushed down the toilet. Using a safe chemical cleaner occasionally can help to prevent blockages.

Click here to visit Anglia Water's website page containing guidance on what should not enter the sewer system


What should I do if there is a persistent problem with blockages or a suspected defect which is not the responsibility of the Water Companies?

Contact the Environmental Health section of the council who will be able to offer advice.



The following list should help you to identify which water company you should contact to deal with a blockage in a public sewer:

[A] = Anglian Water [T] = Thames Water (If your parish is not listed there are no public sewers)
• Ashdon [A]
• High Roding [A/T]1
• Barnston [A]
• Langley [T]
• Berden [T]
• Leaden Roding [T]
• Birchanger [T]
• Littlebury [A]
• Broxted [A]
• Manuden [T]
• Canfield (Lt only) [T]
• Margaret Roding [T]
• Chesterfords [A]
• Newport [A]
• Chrishall [A]
• Quendon[A/T]1
• Rickling [A/T]1
• Clavering [T]
• Radwinter [A]
• Debden [A]
• Saffron Walden [A]
• Dunmow (Gt) [A]
• Sampford (Gt only) [A]
• Dunmow (Lt) [A]
• Sewards End [A]
• Eastons [A]
• Stansted [T]
• Elmdon [A]
• Stebbing [A]
• Elsenham [A/T]1
• Takeley [T]
• Farnham [T]
• Thaxted [A]
• Felsted [ A]
• Ugley Green [T]
• Hadstock [A]
• Wendens Ambo [A]
• Hallingburys [T]
• Wenden Lofts [A]
• Hatfield Broad Oak [T]
• White Roding [T]
• Hatfield Heath [T]
• Wicken Bonhunt [A]
• Hempstead [A]
• Widdington [A]
• Henham [A/T]1
• Wimbish [A]
• High Easter [A]
1 Both water companies are responsible for some for the sewers in these parishes. Please check.

Useful Telephone Numbers

Anglian Water Services: 03457 145145 (24 - hour)

Thames Water Utilities: 0800 316 9800 (24 - hour)