Posted: Friday 28th January 2011

The Private Sewers Forum, established by SBWWI in 2009, and comprising of a wide range of industry organisations, met on Thursday 9 December to discuss the transfer of existing sewers, procurement arrangements for drain clearance post transfer and the arrangements for new sewers laid by developers on new housing and commercial sites.

The Forum represents all areas of the water and wastewater industries and in particular the smaller drainage operatives.

On the procurement front there is still some uncertainty and variation on how the water and sewerage companies are approaching this. Some have recently let term contracts and will use these tier one contractors to deliver work on transferred sewers. However PSF understands most of these contractors are not resourced up for this new work. Other WaSCs are considering alternative options, including seeking expressions of interest from medium size contractors.

However there is a need to ensure a competent workforce. WaSCs seem to be silent on their requirements so far, but the PSF heard how Energy and Utility Skills (EUS) has been developing a framework for ensuring competence and assessment of drainage operatives, to ensure high standards of repair and maintenance on sewerage networks in future.

Whoever ultimately carries out the work, PSF members agreed there does need to be an agreement or protocol between the WaSCs, the insurance companies and private drainage contractors so it is clear what happens on site, whoever attends and whoever’s responsibility it ultimately is so that customers are not passed from organisation to organisation.

On the customer front the PSF believes there must be clear and consistent communication to avoid confusion after transfer date. Planning for this must be started now. PSF members therefore look forward to contributing to stakeholder discussions with Water UK and the Consumer Council for Water early in the New Year.

Finally there is even more uncertainty for builders on the standards and adoption arrangements for new sewers they will be constructing on new housing and commercial sites from 1 April 2011. We are still awaiting the “unified build standard” mentioned in the Flood & Water Management Act 2010. And whilst the water companies have been working on a unified build standards we have yet to see any consultation from Defra. And there is now less than 4 months till the changeover. The position, level and availability of bonds in future is also open to question and there is discussion of a ‘registered contractor’ scheme similar to the WIRS and GIRS schemes for water and gas mains. The adoption process will also need to change, with some suggesting it could be a continuous process for individual sewer sections, as properties are sold and occupied.

With so many unanswered questions. PSF members believe the date for the new sewer arrangements must be put back to October 2011, to coincide with the transfer date for existing sewers.

The Forum will meet again on 26 January when details of transfer arrangements will, hopefully, be clearer.

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