There are a few different types of sewers. Foul waste sewers carry waste from domestic appliances such as toilets, baths, showers and washing machines, to a sewage works for treatment. This water is contaminated, either through human contact and excrement, or through chemicals such as bleach, clothing detergent and cleaning products.
Generally, surface water sewers will carry rainwater from rooftops, driveways, roads and patios, back out to the local river, stream or soakaway. This water is considered ‘clean’ and therefore won’t cause pollution if it goes back into the environment. There are some instances where surface water will travel though some kind of interceptor before it is let back into the system – for example, a petrol station would ensure their rainwater travels through a petrol interceptor before it is released into the surface water main, or a large car park would ensure the surface water passes through an oil interceptor.
Finally, a combined sewer will carry both foul water and surface water (rainwater); this will need to be treated due to the foul water contaminating the surface water.