I’ve just uploaded an important article to my main Washerhelp site which concerns us all. It describes how any one of us could be inadvertently contributing to damaging the environment if someone connects, or has previously connected any part of our plumbing incorrectly. If they have, you will not know about it unless you check (there are instructions on how to check later). This could have happened before you moved in but unfortunately it’s the present householder who is responsible for putting it right. The good news is it shouldn’t be too difficult in most cases.
What’s the problem?
There are two distinctly different drainage systems available to most households for unwanted water to discharge into. One is situated at the bottom of the fall pipes from our guttering which runs untreated into rivers, and the other is connected to the main sewerage system and treatment plants.
They have different jobs, and must not be mixed up. Unfortunately, many thousands of houses do have these systems mixed up and this is called a misconnection.
Why does it matter?
Did you know that if any of our washing machines, dishwashers, sinks, baths or toilets are connected to the wrong system then we are contributing to damaging the local environment? Harmful chemicals in detergents and other waste products in discharged water are polluting local rivers and streams. It’s also illegal, and it is the current householder who is responsible for putting the plumbing right.
It’s obvious when you think about it, but you may (like myself) have just not had cause to think about it before
Until I was recently contacted by someone working on behalf of the water authorities who are trying to get this message across to us all I had never thought about the fact that there are two separate water drainage systems at our homes. I would never have realised that my own washing machine was misconnected.
My personal experience
Sadly I myself have been a victim of this. I have recently moved into a new house and the previous occupier had installed a washing machine in the garage.
This is my garage guttering and fall pipe round the back.
At the bottom of the fall pipe is a grate. Rainwater from the garage roof runs into this grate and goes into the storm drain. This harmless water joins the surface water drainage system under our roads and it runs untreated, directly into local rivers and streams.
Unfortunately, you can also see a small pipe to the left, which is the waste water pipe that the washing machine pumps into. This washing machine is misconnected! Waste water full of chemicals and bleaching agents is being pumped directly into a local river and this needs correcting.
Out-buildings and garages
Out-buildings and garages aren’t normally connected to the sewerage system. This means most people installing a washing machine are likely to misconnect the waste water pipe to the storm drain instead – which is illegal.
How to make sure you have no misconnections
Look at the large 4 inch stack pipe on the outside of your home where the toilet is connected (see photo below)
All your waste water plumbing should run into this pipe (or a connected grate next to it)
No guttering fall pipe should be connected to it
Look at the guttering on your house and other buildings. Check the connected fall pipes
No other pipes should connect to this system. Only rainwater should run into it
At the bottom of the guttering fall pipe there may be an open grate. Only rainwater from the roof should run into this grate or be connected to this fall pipe. No plumbing from an appliance or sink should be connected in such a way that it runs into this pipe or grate
The picture above shows a 4 inch main waste water pipe which is typically found at some point on a house. The waste water pipes from the bathroom, kitchen and appliances such as washing machines and dishwashers should all be connected to this pipe or pump out into a grate next to it.
This photo (above) shows a sink waste pipe running into a grate which is right next to the main 4 inch water water pipe. This connection should be OK as both pipes are connected underground.
This photo (above) shows everything connected correctly. You can see that the lone pipe on the side of the house runs round the corner and connects to the main 4 inch pipe. This is correct. The lone pipe actually passes underneath the fall pipe for the guttering. Someone could potenially have taken the easy option and connected the lone pipe to the fall pipe at the corner. This would have resulted in soap, dirty water, shampoo and other undesireable liquids draining into the local river or stream.
More on misconnections
I have more information on plumbing misconnections including official diagrams and other photos of good and bad real life cases -