A Guide for Businesses on Drain Maintenance and Care

Responsible businesses understand the importance of protecting their investments, which is why they will take such care to ensure their premises are properly looked after. It is always better to look after your offices and respond proactively to maintenance issues, rather than dealing with the damage and disruption that result from having to make emergency repairs.

This principle should apply equally to looking after commercial drainage systems, but because pipes and sewers are hidden from view, this crucial aspect of property management often goes overlooked. This can lead to damaging consequences later on, so it is vital that businesses take their drain maintenance and care responsibilities seriously.

As such, the drainage experts at Lanes Group have created this guide for businesses to explain the most important steps that your organisation can take to ensure that your commercial drains and sewer assets are kept in optimal condition.


What are the consequences of poor drain maintenance?

The hidden nature of drainage systems means that it is easy to forget that they require responsible use and careful maintenance to operate at peak performance. When maintenance is not taken seriously, the following issues can arise:

  • The formation of stubborn blockages and fatbergs, preventing the flow of water through the pipes
  • Small cracks and other damage to the pipework can get worse over time if they are not repaired
  • Contaminated or polluted wastewater may end up flowing into the wrong places

This will lead to a number of serious negative consequences for your business:

  • An increased risk of flooding and sewage spills, causing extensive damage to your property and potentially requiring the premises to be closed
  • Serious damage to pipes and sewers that need to be dug up and repaired, resulting in significant disruption and expense for your business
  • Regulatory action being taken against your company due to violations of environmental rules, leading to prosecution, fines and reputational damage

Fortunately, there are a number of steps that can be taken and processes put in place to ensure that businesses are able to avoid these consequences and keep their drains in good working order.

Make a drain plan and ensure you are using the drains properly

It is essential for businesses to understand the layout and structure of their drainage system. This means having a detailed drainage plan available to everyone within the organisation who might need to consult it.

The plan should include:

  • Where the drains are located
  • Details on the types of drains – whether they are surface water, foul water or combined drains
  • The direction of the water flow
  • The locations of where the drains leave your property
  • Information on where the drains discharge into, whether this is a watercourse, clean-water soakaway or sewage treatment plant

If this information is not already available, you should arrange a full drainage survey to put the plan together. Once the plan is in place, it can be consulted in case of emergency, or to find out how the drains will be affected if changes are being made to the building.

It is also important to use this information to make sure the drains are currently being used correctly. If the premises has separate surface water and foul water drains, you will need to make sure that contaminated water is draining only into the foul water drain, which should be connected to a foul sewer, while clean water drains into the surface water drain or soakaway. A combined drainage system can handle both types of water, but you will need permission from your water company if it is to be used for contaminated water.

With this information in hand, the business can paint and colour-code your on-site manhole covers, according to the standardised code:

  • Blue for surface water
  • Red for foul water
  • A red ‘C’ for a combined system

Businesses should also paint an arrow on the manhole cover to denote the direction of water flow, with a corresponding arrow on the ground to ensure that the manhole cover can be replaced facing the same direction after being removed.

Understand who is responsible for drainage and wastewater issues

Once you have mapped your drains, you must review the infrastructure to make sure you understand which parts of the nearby sewer system your business is responsible for:

  • The business or property owner is responsible for pipes, gutters and drains in and around the building, including drains leading up to the boundary at the property’s edge
  • The local water and sewage company is responsible for public sewers carrying sewage and stormwater from the property’s boundary to a wastewater treatment works
    • They are also responsible for shared drains, where the pipes of several properties meet before joining the public sewer
  • The local council is responsible for road drainage and roadside gullies, as well as council-managed properties

If a drainage problem arises within your jurisdiction, it will be the responsibility of your company to get it fixed. To learn more about this, take a look at our guide to business responsibility for drains.

Check the health and resilience of your drains

Your drains need to be checked regularly to ensure that they are in good condition. By organising a CCTV survey with a reputable drainage company, you will be able to get a full picture of the current state of your drains, utilising advanced camera technology to capture high-resolution images of the inside of the pipes without needing to dig anything up.

By doing so, your drainage service provider will be able to identify evidence of any damage or blockages and repair them before they become a problem. They can also assess any other issues that may be preventing the system from operating at full capacity, or judge whether the infrastructure is suitable to cope with extreme weather and flooding.

Many businesses choose to arrange a regular schedule of maintenance check-ups for their drains, keeping on top of these potential problems by getting their pipes cleaned according to a pre-planned schedule. This can be a good way of preventing future problems and providing peace of mind.

Invest in systems and technology needed to prevent drain pollution

For some businesses, it may be necessary to invest in additional technology to ensure they are not discharging pollutants into the drainage system. For example, any site with a risk of oil contamination will require an oil separator/interceptor or another device to remove oil from water draining off hard surfaces. These are most often used by:

  • Large car parks bigger than 800 sq m, or with more than 50 parking spaces
  • Smaller car parks that discharge to sensitive environments, such as nature reserves
  • Vehicle maintenance areas
  • Roads
  • Refuelling facilities

It may also be necessary to isolate potential run-off from areas at high risk of contamination, including refuelling areas, from your general drainage. This could mean shielding these areas from rainfall, or channelling run-off to a collection tank.

Food service providers represent another sector who need to take special precautions to prevent drain pollution, due to the amount of fat, oil and grease they need to dispose of. This could include simple sink strainers to stop food debris from entering the plughole, or grease

recovery units (GRUs) to collect oil and fat from the wastewater, allowing it to be disposed of by a registered waste handler. You can find out more about these precautions in our drainage guide for the food industry.

Other businesses may choose to invest in a sustainable drainage system (SUDS), which functions by storing the water that runs off from a site for a certain amount of time, to allow pollutants to be broken down by natural processes. Examples of this include green roofs, infiltration trenches, filter drains and detention basins.

By speaking to a drainage professional, you will be able to get advice on what kind of system would work for your needs.

Educate staff on responsible drain usage

As with all aspects of responsible management, preventing a problem is always better than having to fix it afterwards. In order to ensure that your business premises donot experience drainage problems, it is important to ensure that everyone on site is following best practice principles when using the sinks and toilets.

This means making sure that the following substances and items are never flushed down the toilet or washed down the sink:

  • Cooking oil – pre or post-cooking
  • Margarine
  • Butter
  • Lard
  • Cooking sauces and condiments
  • Food – even crumbs
  • Wet wipes
  • Face masks
  • Tampons, applicators and wrappers
  • Sanitary/menstrual pads and towels
  • Nappies
  • Condoms
  • Cotton buds
  • Contact lenses
  • Bandages and plasters
  • Razor blades
  • Dental floss
  • Rubber gloves 

Everyone who accesses your premises needs to be reminded to follow these rules, including the staff, the cleaners, your customers and other site visitors. In the case of staff, this can be achieved through training and education; for others, you can offer visible reminders of what to do by putting informational signage in the kitchens and bathrooms, as well as providing suitable disposal units for solid waste.

Businesses may also consider signing up to Unblocktober, a month-long public awareness campaign taking place every October. This campaign provides resources and guidance to help individuals and businesses to change their habits throughout the month and avoid putting any potentially polluting items down the drains. Events such as this represent a good opportunity to communicate these important messages to staff, while demonstrating your organisation’s commitment to responsible site management and environmental stewardship.

Learn more

To find out more about drain maintenance best practices, take a look at Lanes’ Best Practice guide series, which provides detailed information on a number of common drain care topics that are relevant to businesses.

For more information on the day-to-day changes in drain usage habits that can help businesses and their staff prevent problems from arising, visit our Unblocktober campaign website.

If you are looking to arrange a CCTV drain survey or you require immediate drain repair and maintenance services for your commercial premises, get in touch with the experts at Lanes Group today. We can be contacted 24/7 on 0800 526 488, and our nationwide team are on hand to provide your business with the advice and direct support you need to keep your drains running clean and clear.