HOMES across the North-East have bathroom and kitchen appliances wrongly plumbed into the sewer network, water company bosses say.
Baths, toilets, washing machines and dishwashers which are connected to surface water sewer systems pollute rivers and beaches, damage wildlife and risk health.
Gutters and downpipes taking rain from roofs which are wrongly connected can contribute to flooding.
Almost 100 mis-connected surface water drainage outfalls in the region have been identified as a risk of pollution to rivers and streams.
It is estimated that sewers serving about 27,000 homes may need inspecting to identify and trace potential sources of pollution.
Northumbrian Water has a team dedicated to finding and fixing bad connections.
It is running partnership pilot projects in Darlington and Thornaby to focus attention on the problem.
The company's sewerage support manager Alison Wilson posed in a bath in Cocker Beck, in Darlington, on Wednesday (May 21), to highlight the issue.
There are several water outfalls into Cocker Beck and Northumbrian Water says one in particular is showing signs of contamination.
Richard Warneford, Northumbrian Water’s waste water director, said: "Extensive survey work is necessary to identify misconnections, then we work with customers to ensure faults are rectified as soon as possible.
"Everyone can play a part in protecting our environment by checking connections are correct.
"The age of the house could be a clue as wrong connections may have been made many years ago."
"They could also have happened accidentally or been made in ignorance or by carelessness when extensions or house alterations were built.
"Pipes connected to rainwater downpipes and appliances or toilets in outbuildings should also be checked."
For more information, visit nwl.co.uk/your-home/your-services/misconnections.aspx