All too often we are called to a new customer’s houses, who have been having their sewer drains cleared every year, for years, by other plumbers when 100% of this cost should have been charged to Icon Water.
Icon Water is responsible for maintaining the sewer infrastructure in the ACT which includes the sewer mains and the branch lines of the sewer mains that run to at least 1m into the boundary of each property. The maintenance costs for this is paid for by the tax and ratepayers in Canberra.
Effectively, you have what’s called a tie point, a simple joint between the government-owned sewer pipe and the homeowner owned sewer pipe, below ground where the homeowner’s responsibility ends and Icon’s begins. The very first plumbing piece installed here will be what’s called an inspection opening or IO.
Unfortunately, unless you live in a new subdivision or have had a major excavation in your yard chances are that this IO is underground. In order to open it so that you can prove that the responsibility is Icon Waters a licensed plumber needs to first dig down to it, usually between 1 and 2m deep and open it. If you do open it and this IO is holding sewage, chances are the blockage is Icon’s responsibility.
Providing the correct process has been followed Icon Water will pay for the dig up, pay for the cost to install a riser to ground level so that future blockages can be easily identified, pay for future plumbers to identify and report the blockage to Icon and pay for all future blockages to be cleared that are on the Icon side of the boundary riser, saving you many thousands of dollars.
So why are so many ICON drains cleared and paid for by home owners year in and year out?
When eeling or jetting a drain it is impossible to know exactly where the head of the equipment is, and therefore impossible to know, unless a pre-camera inspection has taken place when the head reaches the magical tie point. Of course in a perfect world, we don’t want to clear past this point as that could be clearing an Icon drain. It could also be much worse to be 1m short and complete a full dig up hoping that the drain is blocked on Icons side just to find out we were 1m short and the owner is now liable for the entire cost of the dig up.
Additionally, while we have always found Icon Water to be very fair and reasonable, understandably they have some strict guidelines and rules that plumbers must follow in order to have a customers invoice paid for by them such as when and how they have to be notified and when they need to attend and inspect. Some plumbers believe that this is too much hassle and will take the easy root of continually putting more cable or hose down the drain until it is cleared instead of fixing the issue.
Other reasons other plumbers may not recommend this action include
- They feel the rates that have been pre-negotiated between the Master Plumbers Association ACT and ICON Water for reimbursement are not enough. (Water Tight Canberra feel that most of their rates are fair and reasonable)
- They are unaware that the sewer reimbursement scheme exists
- They don’t have the equipment required to inspect, locate, excavate and repair pipework
- They are unable to clearly explain to the customer the risks that are involved and don’t want to end up not being paid at the end of the job as the customer was under the impression it would definitely be paid by Icon.
Our Approach to Blocked Drains in Canberra
- Before arriving on site, Joseph, our admin guy has attached a copy of the sewer tie plans to our digital job card so that the tradesman on the site know instantly, exactly where the tie is located. You can access your free tie plan from this website http://www.planning.act.gov.au/tools_resources/legislation_plans_registers/registers/plumbing_tie_search
- We make several assumptions on how the drain has been laid and estimate the total distance of sewer drain pipe including allowing for vertical drop and we add a small percentage to reduce the risk of falling short. We can reduce the assumptions if you can provide us with drainage plans, however, drainage plans are diagrammatic only, and not exact, so some assumptions still have to be made. If you don’t have a copy of your drainage diagrams and would like one, we can provide this for a small fee, or you can visit ACTPLA in Mitchell and purchase a copy from them.
- If we find that the drain is still blocked at this point, we will use some basic equipment to attempt to get a rough location of the head and reassess if we think more length is required
- If we believe that we are at or have passed the tie point, we will discuss options with the owner of the property before continuing
- If the drain clears when we know we are close to the tie, we will recommend a post drain clean CCTV inspection
Advantages of a post drain clean CCTV inspection
In the event of the drain being cleared when we know the cutting head is close to the tie we will recommend a CCTV inspection so that
- We can inspect the customer’s pipework all the way to the sewer tie and confirm the condition of it
- We can get an exact measurement from the clearing point to the tie, which will allow future blockages to be cleared precisely to that point reducing the risk of falling short
- If we confirm that the blockage was on the Icon side by the fact that it cleared with more meters of cable down the line than the camera required to get to the tie point we can make a plan for the next time the blockage grows so that we are prepared.
Other CCTV Notes
- Unfortunately, we are not legally allowed to knowingly push the camera past the tie point to inspect icon pipework
- Even if we could see the Icon pipe was badly damaged, Icon will not use our CCTV footage as evidence and will not pay reimbursements – (this is frustrating, but unless you have the dollars to take legal action it is what it is)
- CCTV Camera’s do not work when the drain is already blocked, so this can only be done once the line has been cleared or partially cleared and drained
- CCTV Inspections can be done anytime the line is not blocked
- For more information on the Icon Network boundaries and responsibilities, please click here to download the 2017 Icon Water Sewerage Network Boundaries and Responsibilities Guide
- For more information on the on the 2017-2018 Icon Water reimbursement rates that have been agreed as fair with the Master Plumbers Association ACT, please click here
- CCTV Inspection Blog Post
- Click Here for more information on blocked drains
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