Defra has launched a consultation on the transfer of private sewers and lateral drains to the statutory water and sewerage companies of England and Wales.

It is estimated that up to 50% of properties connect to private sewers, and that most others connect to a public sewer via a lateral drain. These are the responsibility of the owners of the properties they serve, often without their knowledge.

The consultation invites views on four options relating to the method of transfer together with questions on the scope of transfer and measures to prevent the proliferation of new private sewers.

Environment minister Phil Woolas said: “The current system places an unfair burden on those householders who are served by private sewers and lateral drains. They pay the same sewerage bills as those served only by public sewers, but on top of that have to foot the bill for maintenance when things go wrong.”

The consultation closes on 19 October 2007.