SOUTH West Water is working with customers and tradespeople to identify and prevent pollutions, and protect the environment by seeking out drainage misconnections across the region.

Most properties have two separate sewer systems – the foul system that takes a property’s wastewater, including sewage, and transports it to a treatment works for processing, and the surface water system that receives rainwater from guttering and driveways and transports it to a nearby watercourse.

A misconnection occurs when these connections are crossed over and wastewater drainage connects to the surface water network, or vice versa.

Both of these types of misconnection cause sewage pollutions to watercourses; harming wildlife, the environment and people. They are surprisingly common, with estimates suggesting there could be up to 16,000 misconnections across the South West.

South West Water is passionate about reducing pollutions, and to support this work it has invested over £150,000 in 2023 alone to investigate misconnections and is increasing the number of investigations it carries out this year.

The company is working closely with local community groups, including Friends of Tregoniggie Woodland, and local councils, who have been assisting South West Water to identify misconnections, helping to improve the water quality in their local catchments. 

South West Water is urging customers to support them with this work by reporting outfalls that appear to be polluting, so they can be investigated by the water company for misconnections. Signs of a misconnection include outfalls that are causing discolouration in the watercourse or releasing sewage-related debris like toilet paper and wet wipes.

Misconnections are a private issue and the responsibility of the property owner to rectify. They can occur when a property is being built, when an extension is added, or when other modifications are made to a property's plumbing or drainage. It’s at these points that misconnections can be prevented, avoiding the costs and hassle involved in rectifying them.

To support this work, South West Water has created a dedicated webpage and a series of videos for customers and tradespeople to explain what misconnections are, how to report them, and how they can be prevented.

Tristan Kelsall-Spurr, South West Water’s Misconnections Manager, said: ‘We live in a beautiful part of the country which we are passionate about protecting.

‘Misconnections lead to pollutions which cause harm to the environment, wildlife and people.

‘Fortunately, they are easily avoided and we urge our customers to visit our website to find all the information needed to make misconnections a thing of the past.’

Ken Reid from Friends of Tregoniggie Woodland, said: ‘A few years ago, there were a number of pollution incidents in the Bickland Stream which runs through Tregoniggie Woodland, Prinslow, Swanvale, Swanpool and onto Swanpool beach.

‘The Friends of Tregoniggie Woodland (FOTW) worked closely with  South West Water to enable them to thoroughly investigate the source of the pollution, and as a result many misconnections were identified in both the Industrial estates and domestic housing in the area.

‘These have all been reconnected and FOTW are very pleased with the proactive efforts of South West Water in substantially reducing pollution incidents in the Bickland Stream.’

► South West Water’s dedicated webpage for tackling misconnections, advice for customers and tradespeople and its new series of videos can be found here.