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200,000km of drains to come under water company control

200,000 km of privately owned sewers and lateral drains in England will be transferred to water and sewerage companies from 2011.

Currently, if a private sewer or lateral drain needs repairing, the bill is picked up by householders, even if the problem is outside their property boundary. Most householders don't even know the sewer or drain is their responsibility as it is not apparent when buying a property, and their insurance policies are unlikely to cover wear and tear.

Now, environment minister Hilary Benn has confirmed that responsibility will pass to the water companies.

"Millions of householders are unwittingly sitting on the ticking financial time bomb of private sewers and lateral drains. They may not realise it, but if something goes wrong they have to pick up the bill.

"The transfer to water and sewerage companies will create a fairer system for all and save many households the agony of finding thousands of pounds to pay for repairs," he said.

More than half of all houses in England are estimated to have a private sewer or lateral drain, the part of a drain that lies outside the property boundary.

This will almost double the length of sewerage the water companies will control. The costs of transfer will be met by an increase in the sewerage element of bills across the nine sewerage companies currently estimated to be around 7.5 pence to 23 pence a week.

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