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The Importance of Fixing Misconnected Pipes

11 March 2024 10:41

 | NI Water News

Monday 11th March 2024 is World Plumbing Day, celebrating the important role plumbing plays in protecting the health and safety of modern society.

As people from within and outside the plumbing industry come together to learn and share knowledge, NI Water and Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) are offering some helpful information about the importance of connecting your drains correctly and the risks of misconnections.

NIEA pollution investigations show many properties are misconnected.  This means domestic pipes from toilets, showers and washing machines are connected to surface water drains instead of wastewater pipes. NI Water and NIEA are advising that these misconnections can pollute local streams, rivers and beaches, damage wildlife and put the public’s health at risk.

NI Water’s Angela Halpenny explains the importance of identifying misconnections and how property owners can help solve the problem. Angela said: “Drain misconnections happen when plumbing is connected into the wrong sewer – often unintentionally. For most houses built after 1970, wastewater drains into a separate sewer system allowing clean rainwater to flow to the surface water drain and into a local river or beach.

“Misconnections occur when a wastewater flow is connected in error to a surface water drain. This results in untreated wastewater going directly into your local river and may end up on beaches. This can happen when a new appliance is plumbed in, when a property is being extended or renovated, or even when it was originally built. Similarly, if gutters and gullies are wrongly connected, they will be sending clean rainwater into the wastewater drain, overwhelming it and causing flooding and untreated wastewater going directly to rivers and beaches.

“We are reminding the public to inspect their plumbing for misconnections. It is the responsibility of property owners to repair and maintain their wastewater facilities and pipework, within the home and up to the point where the pipework meets the public sewer. Failure to do so could result in pollution arising.

NI Water has been working with NIEA to prioritise and fix misconnections across Northern Ireland. Kevin McGrady, DAERA NIEA Emergency Pollution Officer, said: “Domestic and commercial property owners are frequently unaware if their property is connected to a combined or separated sewerage system.

“Misconnected wastewater may contain various pollutants including untreated sewage and nutrients such as phosphorus and nitrogen.  The wastewater can cause a significant deterioration in the water quality of the receiving waterway and a negative impact on the appearance of our rivers and coastline.

“In some cases, misconnections can cause a deterioration of the quality of our bathing waters and shellfish waters, in turn having a negative impact on the tourism industry and local economy. Where NIEA becomes aware of a misconnection having an environmental impact, this is formally recorded as a water pollution incident and, where these are identified, NIEA will notify NI Water of their existence so they can be prioritised for remediation. Incorrect plumbing in your home, or at your commercial property, could mean that you are inadvertently discharging wastewater directly to your local waterway, so it is important that you check your connections inside the propertyand also the outside drains to prevent misconnections and water pollution.

“Further information on how to do this is available at the web links provided below. Should you become aware of water pollution anywhere in Northern Ireland, from any source, this can be reported to the NIEA Incident Hotline on 0800 807060 or, for less urgent matters, via email to

Where to find further information about what to do:


Media enquiries to the NI Water Press Office via email to

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