Rise in shoddy DIY plumbing inspired by TV home makeovers is flooding UK rivers with sewage and killing fishPoorly-installed plumbing spreads toxins and kills marine life, say experts300,000 homes in England and Wales have botched pipeworkProblem will get worse thanks to home improvement fever
13:44 GMT, 2 December 2012
Poorly-installed pipes fitted by DIY-crazy homeowners are leaking raw sewage and other toxic materials into UK waterways, killing marine life.
As more and more home improvement enthusiasts, inspired by programmes like DIY SOS and Grand Designs, tackle their own plumbing issues, fish and water-based plants are dying off, experts have warned.
A spokesman from Thames Water, which serves 14 million people in London and the Thames Valley, said an estimated 300,000 properties across England and Wales have wrongly connected pipes that not only pollute watercourses but also increase flood risks.
DIY: But bad amateur plumbing is seeping waste into UK waterways, killing fish and increasing the risk of flooding
Approximately 1.5 Olympic swimming pools' worth of foul waste enters watercourses daily in the Thames Water region alone.
He said: 'People put in a new washing machine and plug it into what looks like the waste pipe but it goes to the surface water drain and it enters a local stream.
'Water from appliances and sewage needs to go to sewage treatment plants.'
He said that the boom in DIY is a factor behind the numbers. He said: 'Less housing is being sold because of the recession so many people are staying in their houses and improving them.'
The spokesman added that Thames Water is seeking a legislative change that will allow water companies to enforce work at private properties. It is currently the remit of local authorities, which Thames Water claims are not incentivised or resourced to give it the priority it warrants.
DIY SOS: Home improvement programmes are fuelling the trend for homeowners to undertake their own plumbing
Granting companies these powers would make tackling harmful plumbing mistakes easier for local authorities, companies and customers, the spokesman said.
In 2009, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) predicted that half a million properties will have botched pipework by 2015.
Dr Robert Keirle, pollution programme manager at the Marine Conservation Society, told The Observer: 'As DIY has become more popular, aided by an explosion in property programmes on television, the problem has grown.
'It is also probably a result of the times we live in, with people unable to afford to call in tradesmen to do the plumbing.'
Mark Lloyd, chief executive of the Angling Trust, told the paper his members had seen a change at fishing spots, particularly in inner cities. 'The sewage removes oxygen, encouraging eutrophication, meaning that it grows a lot of algae and the water becomes stagnant.'
Toxic: Sewage and chemicals from appliances seep into streams and rivers and kill marine life