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Thames Water Clears Pollution From Thousands of Wrongly Plumbed Home Appliances

Published on: 5 Sep, 2020
Updated on: 9 Sep, 2020

An example of how a misconnected pipe can drain out into the environment.

Thousands of incorrectly plumbed toilets, washing machines and dishwashers that pollute rivers and streams have been uncovered by Guildford’s water supplier Thames Water.

Badly connected pipes from household appliances can allow wastewater, some containing dangerous chemicals, in to surface water sewers designed to hold rainwater and drain into natural watercourses.

By fixing the connections, Thames Water has stopped 117 million litres of wastewater flowing into the environment every year, the equivalent of 47 Olympic swimming pools.

Over the past five years, the company has identified more than 8,000 wrongly connected appliances at thousands of properties.

Now, more than 1,000 additional inspections are planned across the region, with a focus on the capital, to fix the connections.

Stephen Barry, Thames Water’s environmental protection manager, said: “Household appliances connected to the wrong drainage pipe can have a serious impact on the environment.

“Most have been done entirely by accident but we would urge anyone installing a new appliance or fitting new connections to make sure they’re plumbed in properly. Failing to do so can also lead to extremely expensive repair bills.

“We’re pleased to have found so many of these and helped owners fix them but we’re determined to keep doing more to ensure all wastewater is taken to our sewage works where it can be safely treated.”

A spokesperson from Kingston council in London added: “We are fortunate to be on the banks of the Thames and have the Hogsmill and Beverley Brook rivers flowing through our communities. We want to ensure these places are as clean and unpolluted as possible.”

The most common wrong connection was on kitchen sinks, followed by washing machines and hand-basins. Other appliances included dishwashers, toilets, baths and showers.

Thames Water works with environmental groups, the Environment Agency and local authorities to identify points where pollution is entering waterways.

If pollution is spotted, investigation identifies offending properties. Responsibility for fixing connections lies with the property owner.

For more information about avoiding wrong connections visit:

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Responses to Thames Water Clears Pollution From Thousands of Wrongly Plumbed Home Appliances

  1. Jim Allen Reply

    September 5, 2020 at 8:40 pm

    Strange, since August 2017 800 blockages were cleaned in Guildford Borough by Thames Water after 40 plus years of neglect. Now multiple wrong connections are being found across their region.

    Do I believe the 8,000 figure? No, I don’t. Perhaps it was washing machines are connected inside the property. As for sinks, they go into combined rain foul sewers in older properties.

    I am sceptical of Thames Water’s publicity machine. It claimed 3,000 headroom at Moorfields sewage treatment works in September 2015 but 1,000 had been already allocated although they claimed sufficient capacity until 2026. Their publicity does not match reality.

  2. Martin Elliott Reply

    September 5, 2020 at 9:19 pm

    So what about a second opinion on this issue rather than a press release from one of the local drainage authorities?

    Having been a homeowner and tenant of properties up to over a century old, I can personally say the identification of rain-water as being an open gully and wastewater (grey and black) having a continuous connection, is very misleading, especially in Surrey.

    Why is there no mention of the alternatives with their issues, like soakaways (for rainwater) or the septic tank systems?

    The house I currently rent, being a GBC property, has five connections. One is a direct toilet connection; four are open gullies.
    1 Kitchen sink & washing machine.
    1 ‘Wet’ room drain
    1 Boiler condensate (alkaline) and a direct gutter downpipe back entry.
    1 direct gutter downpipe back entry.

    There are two concrete and one ductile iron manhole covers.

    I’m sure GBC know they are correct. But do I have surface water and wastewater (grey and black) drainage?

    Although a chartered engineer, I wouldn’t attempt to say what is what.

    Maybe a drainage engineer can give you a better description to aid self-identification of a possible issues?

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