Bad Smells?

It can be hard to track the source of a bad smell, but here are some of the causes that have been found on Derwenthorpe in the past.

Some residents have experienced lingering unpleasant smells. It can be hard to track the source of a bad smell, but here are some of the causes that have been found on Derwenthorpe in the past.

If you have a problem with the water coming out of your taps, check out Yorkshire Water’s guidance. Some problems are harmless, but others could be quite serious.

First, some things you should know about our waste water.

For all our houses, the household waste water (from toilets, sinks, baths, showers, etc) is kept separate from the surface water (garden, roof) drainage. A couple of houses have grey-water recycling, but this article doesn’t cover them. The waste water is considered polluted. The surface water is not considered polluted and is discharged untreated into the environment: for example into the lakes. Please never put anything noxious into that water stream.

One benefit of this separation is that you should not be paying Yorkshire Water for surface water removal. Check your bills if you’re not sure you’re getting the right discount.

“Sewers” are shared drains, regardless of whether they contain sewage (foul water). I think Yorkshire Water should be maintaining the foul sewers once they’re adopted*, but that the home owner (you or JRHT) is responsible for your un-shared drains. I think Yorkshire Water are responsible as soon as two drains meet, or when your drain exits your property (when it becomes a ‘lateral drain’). Since 2011, there’s no such thing as a ‘private’ sewer.

Smells in your house

Of course there are lots of possibilities, like food going off, but here are a couple of plumbing problems that I experienced when my house was brand new!

Air acceptance valve (Durgo) stuck.

An Air Acceptance valve (sometimes called “Durgo”, after a particular brand) is intended to prevent all the water being sucked out of your U-bends. It will be inside your house, above the level of the highest toilet. In our house, it was behind the plasterboard in the en-suite on the third floor. And it was stuck open when we bought the house as new – causing a bad smell in that room.

Unfortunately, the builders decided the best fix was to open the window (it’s so high, we didn’t notice for a year!), and turn the mechanical ventilation up to maximum. We soon had DWH back to fix the AAV, and to be fair they did a really good job of replastering afterwards! If your house is not under warranty, and you own it you’ll have to pay to get that fixed. Otherwise try DWH or JRHT.

Unsealed waste outlet.

We also had a washing machine installed when we bought the house. We hadn’t opted for it: partly because DWH were charging twice the price that we could have bought it ourselves! We mentioned this, and DWH removed the machine. But they didn’t seal up the outlet, so there was a four inch hole in the corner of our kitchen leading directly into the foul water drains. We got DWH in to fix that.

If you have a washing machine, or dishwasher moved or removed, make sure the outlet is properly sealed.

In the garden or in the street.

At least one house was built with no foul water drainage. Well, I suppose it did have drainage, but the drain just ended in the soil under the back garden. Yuck. DWH fixed it. It’s unlikely that any similar problem still exists.

Drains and sewers can become blocked. That will likely lead to flooding somewhere, especially after heavy rain. The flooding might not be obviously connected with a drain. One drain was found to contain a scaffold joint.

Around the lakes

Some weather conditions might cause vegetation to rot, causing foul smells. This is probably more likely in warm weather. But there has also been a problem caused by cross over between the surface water and waste water drainage systems.

At least one house was found to be discharging washing machine waste water into the surface water drainage system. If you’re getting a new appliance installed, that’s not a direct replacement for an old one, be sure your plumber connects it to the correct drain. Likewise if you’re moving an existing appliance, say out into the garage or into a new extension, for example.

Oh, and don’t connect surface water to the foul water system, either. That could lead to the foul water system being over-whelmed during heavy rain. So it could be even worse!

DWH have traced all the systems, and discovered and corrected a number of cross overs from foul water to surface water.

Adoption of sewers

I think, at the time of writing, the sewers were not yet adopted. The process of adoption involves checking that they’re correctly installed, and carefully mapping them. We’ll update this article when the adoption is complete.


If you have any other examples of problems with bad smells, and their solutions, please let us know in the comments.

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