Who Is Responsible For The Sewage Spill In My Garden?

Monday 20th March 2023

Ellen Warren

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Water companies like Thames Water are called daily to report a sewage spill or a burst pipe, but people may be unaware of who is liable for the repairs and decontamination. You could also be unfamiliar with what you need to do in the event of a spillage.

Here at ICE Cleaning, we offer rapid-response sewage cleaning services. Our sewage cleaning specialists can remove all traces of biohazards and decontaminate the entire area. They can be on-site within a matter of hours in an emergency, and make your home safe again.

Read on to find out if you are responsible for a wastewater spill on your property.

What is a sewage spill?

A sewage spill happens when the waste from our pipes overflows or leaks from a sewer line, wastewater treatment facilities, or wastewater containers like septic tanks. These spills could happen anywhere a sewer line may be, including:

  • Land areas such as gardens or parks
  • Domestic, public, or commercial buildings
  • Bodies of water (lakes, seas, and rivers)
  • Recreational waterways (pools, hot tubs, and fountains)

There will be both visible and invisible signs of a sewage leak in the area, and you may not see the obvious symptoms of one at first until you investigate further. The indicators of a spillage in the area could include:

  • Foul odours
  • Low water pressure
  • Damp areas in the property
  • Poor drainage
  • Rat infestations
  • Unusually lush grass
  • Overflowing water around the property
  • Foundation damage

What causes a sewage spill?

When a sewage spill happens, the causes are mostly due to either negligence of the pipe and sanitary systems or extreme weather that leads to flooding. These causes could include:

  • Grease, fats, or oils
  • Structural damage
  • Sewage pump failure
  • Infiltration of other water sources
  • Overflowing pipes

You can prevent a leak or spillage by simply maintaining your pipes and avoiding flushing objects down your toilet that is not human waste or tissue. 

Some areas of your home's sewage and water system are your responsibility, so it is up to you to ensure your pipes are maintained and to report any spills to your local water company.

What are the risks of sewage exposure?

Sewage contains the waste of humans and animals, creating a dangerous amount of hazards for people. When you are exposed to wastewater, bacteria and pathogens could infect you and could cause health problems including:

  • Stomach problems
  • Fever
  • Skin, ear, and eye infections
  • Sore throat
  • Chest infections
  • Hepatitis

Not only does a sewage spill threaten your health, but it may also harm the environment. A leak can quickly contaminate large water bodies and harm wildlife, polluting important sources like drinking water and soil-grown foods.

Wastewater could additionally damage your home if it leaks onto your property. It may contaminate the soil, flood your garden, and cause structural damage. Sewage can corrode materials like concrete as well as inflict water damage on your home if left long enough.

Am I responsible for the spill?

In the event of a spillage, it can be unclear who is liable for a broken sewage line – especially if you are unaware of the pipework on your property.

You are held accountable for drains and pipes in your home, but these drains often carry the wastewater to a sewer outside your boundary line.

However, some houses might have privately owned sewers, and you may have a cesspool or septic tank that contains any wastewater. When you have a sewer or container that serves you privately, you are responsible for hiring biohazard cleaning services and paying for repairs if it leaks.

If you are unsure of your responsibilities or who could be culpable for a spill that has occurred, you can check Anglian Water's helpful map that explains sewer responsibility.

When you spot exposed wastewater, you should report it to the local sewerage or water company. If the spillage is your responsibility, you must contact your local authority and request sewage cleaning services to come and decontaminate the area.

You can relinquish ownership over your private sewer by contacting your local sewerage company and discussing the next steps. Before giving up control, you should ensure the pipes and sewer are in good condition as they are still your responsibility until then.

What to do when your garden has been affected

It can be very distressing when a flood or spillage occurs on your property. You may feel inclined to try and clean it up yourself, but this can be very hazardous to your health.

If you also have an allotment or grow food in your garden, fruit or vegetables must be disposed of to fully decontaminate the soil during a biohazard cleaning. Do not eat any fruit or vegetables from your garden, as you will be unable to clean them of contamination.

In the event of a spillage in your garden, you must:

  • Restrict access to the garden
  • Stay indoors and lock your back door
  • Contact the local water or sewerage company
  • Take photos of the damage for your insurance company
  • Contact sewage cleaning services if the spill is your responsibility
  • Keep receipts of emergency expenses

Get in touch

Here at ICE Cleaning, we are a sewage cleaning company where our technicians provide biohazard cleaning services to ensure full sanitisation of your property. 

We are available 365 days a year, 24/7. To get a free, no-obligation quote today, contact us at 0208 066 0360 or email us at enquiries@icecleaning.co.uk.

Sydney Bowell

Sydney Bowell

Operations Assistant

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