Environmental public health


A decorative perennial plant which is aggressive and invasive, can cause structural damage as it grows. Spreads by sending rhizomes, underground, from the mother plant to establish a new plant away from the original.

The shoots have an appearance of bamboo canes, however the leaves are broad and shovel shaped. The stems are predominantly green with purple flecks and can grow up-to 7 feet (2 metres) tall.

The plant will die back in the winter and the canes take on a brown colour to re-emerge in the spring.

Can be treated with glyphosate herbicide, however treatment may take a number of years to control, as the plant will need to take in sufficient chemical to kill the original tuber.

Difficult, although possible to remove the plant by excavation. Extreme caution is required in removing the entire rhizome and tuber system as a new plant can regenerate from a very small (thumb sized) piece.

All waste including soil dug up will need to be disposed of under special precautions. Inappropriate and reckless disposal of Japanese Knotweed has been the cause of much of the growth in the numbers of the plant.

1st course of action

Most people or businesses do not realise that their actions are causing an issue to others and by politely speaking to them or putting your concerns in writing, the problem can be resolved. This is why we ask that you contact them in the first instance. When dealing with Japanese Knotweed present in two locations, but associated with one plant, the potential for successful treatment rises when both are attended to.

To help you with this we have included some tips at the bottom of the page, on how to approach people and some sample letters if you don't feel comfortable speaking face to face.

Dear Neighbour letter - Japanese Knotweed (pdf 164KB)

Many of the problems associated with blocked drains are a direct result of items that are flushed down the toilet which the sewer system is neither able or designed to take. This includes Nappies, Baby Wipes, Make-up wipes, cotton buds, cotton wool and so called “flushable wipes”. None of these are able to break down like toilet paper does, and because of this they are more likely to snag and collect in the sewers. 

An additional problem is caused by washing grease, fat or food deposits down the kitchen sink, which eventually goes into the sewers. 

You are responsible for the condition of the drains from the house to the edge of your property, unless this drain is joined by a neighbour’s. In this instance, you are then only responsible up to the junction (where the two drains meet). 

United Utilities are responsible for the public sewer (in the road) all ‘lateral drains’ (which are drains that have left your property) up to the public sewer. All ‘shared drains’ (where two or more properties) use the same drain. 

However, we are all responsible for the conditions within these systems as a result of what we put down there. 

If you do not own your property, but rent from a landlord, you will need to check the terms of your lease agreement. Most landlords will make it your duty to fix any blockages, although as the owners of the property they are ultimately responsible. 

If someone is not getting their drains unblocked we can serve a statutory notice on him/her to ensure that they get it done. If they fail to do this after notice has been served we will do it “in default” this process will result in the person or people being served receiving an invoice for repayment. 

Blocked Drains Information (pdf 377KB)
Smelly Drains Information (pdf 198KB)

There are many circumstances which may lead to you seeing rodents, active, in the vicinity of your home. Everyone has a responsibility to prevent these pests from getting established and breeding in the urban environment near our homes. 

Sefton’s Pest Control Team in conjunction with United Utilities treat the sewer system by lifting 2000 inspection chambers every year and putting bait in there. 

The Environmental Public Health Team will investigate allegations of rodent activity, in an attempt, to discover how they may have escaped out of the sewers, where they may have gone to and how they became established or are flourishing. For this reason they will look for:- 

  • drainage defects in the area affected – to establish where they came from (how they got out of the sewers)
  • significant harbourage or nesting material, which would enable the colony to become established – away from natural predators such as (cats/dogs/seagulls/humans)
  • sufficient food sources that would allow them to flourish – this can be rubbish which has been left out for collection. Food put out for the birds/squirrels or fly-tipped waste which may include food containers and scraps.

With any of the above we are able to rectify these situations that could lead to rodent activity. We are not able to stop a rat from running across your property, without knowing where they are either coming from or going to (where one or more of the above may be present). 

IF you are seeing rodent activity in your property you could ‘protect’ yourself and book a treatment with our pest control team. 

Call them out on 0345 140 0845. 

It is free, if you are in receipt of Council Tax Reduction Scheme Benefits, or reasonably priced if you are not getting these benefits. View further details about Pest Control

Where wheelie bins are used to keep rubbish, one major food source has been excluded from any rats looking for something to eat. In these locations, this supply of food, has been replaced by our bird and squirrel feeding habits. Birds in particular, are messy eaters and a significant amount of what is put out for them ends up on the ground, where it becomes more available for our rodent enemies. 

1st course of action

Most people or businesses do not realise that their actions are causing an issue to others and by politely speaking to them or putting your concerns in writing, the problem can be resolved. This is why we ask that you contact them in the first instance. 

To help you with this we have included some tips at the bottom of the page, on how to approach people and some sample letters if you don't feel comfortable speaking face to face. 

Dear Neighbour letter - Rats (pdf 163KB)

Not everyone is either willing or able to have a garden that belongs in the Chelsea Flower Show, and you are entitled to keep your property in what-ever condition you prefer, unless as a result you are creating a statutory nuisance, causing excessive rodent activity or having a detrimental effect on the quality of life on others in the neighbourhood. 

We are unable to intervene if the garden is merely overgrown and “looks messy” or certain plants are growing across the boundary fence into your garden. 

You are entitled to cut any branches back to the line of your boundary, however as these are not your branches you must “offer them back” to the owner. 

1st course of action

Most people or businesses do not realise that their actions are causing an issue to others and by politely speaking to them or putting your concerns in writing, the problem can be resolved. This is why we ask that you contact them in the first instance. 

To help you with this we have included some tips at the bottom of the page, on how to approach people and some sample letters if you don't feel comfortable speaking face to face. 

Dear Neighbour letter - Overgrown Gardens (pdf 262KB)

The benefits to our mental health and wellbeing, from pets are well known and documented. There are also many occasions, unfortunately, that the Environmental Public Health Team are notified where someone’s pet is another person’s pest. 

Even though people are able to live in what-ever conditions they desire, they should be aware that they have an obligation not to create a statutory nuisance or have a detrimental effect on the quality of life to others in the neighbourhood. 

1st course of action

Most people or businesses do not realise that their actions are causing an issue to others and by politely speaking to them or putting your concerns in writing, the problem can be resolved. This is why we ask that you contact them in the first instance. 

To help you with this we have included some tips at the bottom of the page, on how to approach people and some sample letters if you don't feel comfortable speaking face to face. 

Dear Neighbour letter - Animal Fouling (pdf 279KB)

Although a fully grown Giant Hogweed plant looks impressive, standing 11 feet tall, this is an invasive and dangerous plant, if it is allowed to flourish and spread. Unlike Japanese Knotweed it spreads by the seeds within the giant flower. Due to the size of the flower (2 feet in diameter) they can produce thousands of seeds, and the height from which they are released in the wind – their spread can be huge. They are able to dominate an area due to their size as nothing can compete with them for food, water and sunlight. 

There are four varieties of Giant Hogweed, all of which contain a specific chemical within the sap that if it comes into contact with skin can cause photodermatitis or photosensitivity. This is where the skin becomes very sensitive to sunlight and may cause blistering, pigmentation and long-lasting scars. 

Giant hogweed can be controlled by chemical weed killers – however because it is a perennial in nature you should use a glyphosate based product that will kill the roots, rather than other types. Residual weedkillers persist in the soil for several weeks so particular care must be taken when using them, if your property is near to a watercourse then you should contact the Environment Agency for guidance/advice. 

Or they can be controlled mechanically, however this needs to be part of a planned maintenance schedule and carried out before the plant reaches flowering size. When controlling giant hogweed always wear gloves, cover your arms and legs, and ideally wear a face mask when working on or near it. Cut plant debris, contaminated clothing and tools are potentially hazardous too. Wash any skin that comes in contact with the plant immediately. Ensure that contractors working on your land are aware of the risks and competent to deal with this weed. 

Like Japanese Knotweed the debris from treatment is a controlled waste and therefore can only be disposed of at licenced landfill sites, with the required documents. Unlike Japanese Knotweed it will not grow from the debris (cut down or dug up) so it can be composted or, like knotweed, burnt on site. 

1st course of action

Most people or businesses do not realise that their actions are causing an issue to others and by politely speaking to them or putting your concerns in writing, the problem can be resolved. This is why we ask that you contact them in the first instance. 

If the hogweed is at the side of the public highways it will likely to be for Sefton to maintain (treat) so please let us know via the contact centre 0345 140 0845. 

The use of asbestos products has been banned in buildings since the early 1990’s, however numerous buildings remain with asbestos containing materials (ACM’s). Particularly corrugated cement roof panels used on sheds and garage walls. 

While these products (asbestos fibres bound in cement) are in good condition, they pose very little hazard to public health. In most cases more risk is associated with removing and disposing of these than leaving them in place and monitoring the condition. One method used to ensure their integrity and increase the life span would be to encase them in a waterproof paint. This can be difficult to achieve safely, on roofs, due to the fragile nature of the product. 

If you are wanting to remove and get rid of an old corrugated cement shed and consider it contain asbestos there are a few straight forward rules that you should follow:- 

  • Wear disposable overalls and face mask, these should be disposed of once the job has been completed. Or after each day if taking longer than 1 day. 
  • Take panels off carefully without using excessive force or equipment that may damage the cement and release the fibres. Loosen bolts with oil or lubricant in advance if necessary. 
  • Undertake the job in the autumn or winter when the building is more likely to be wet and the atmosphere is heavy. NOT on a warm dry summers day. In addition to the preferable weather conditions more people spend the extra daylight hours in the garden. 
  • If it has not rained for a day before you intend to take the shed down soak thoroughly using a hosepipe. 
  • Once the sheets are removed from the frame of the shed/garage wrap them in double 0 gauge visqueen.   Damp-proof course membrane is an adequate thickness of polythene. These should be labelled up and then taken for disposal at one of the waste disposal sites licensed to take them. 
  • An appointment needs to be made via the Merseyside Recycling and Waste Authority

If you are concerned about the manner in which a contractor demolished a neighbour’s shed or garage you need to report this to the HSE - http://www.hse.gov.uk/

If the shed or garage is still standing and you consider that it is in poor condition:-

1st course of action

Most people or businesses do not realise that their actions are causing an issue to others and by politely speaking to them or putting your concerns in writing, the problem can be resolved. This is why we ask that you contact them in the first instance. 

To help you with this we have included some tips at the bottom of the page, on how to approach people and some sample letters if you don't feel comfortable speaking face to face. 

Dear Neighbour letter - Asbestos Shed (pdf 263KB)

The Local Authority is responsible under the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984 to cause to be buried or cremated the body of any person who died or was found dead in their area where no other arrangements have been or are being made. 

Where the deceased passed away with Southport or Fazackerley Hospitals the Hospital Trust is responsible for these funerals. 

We are unable to provide financial assistance when you are trying to fulfil your responsibility of a funeral for a relative. The Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) has some finances available at https://www.gov.uk/funeral-payments 

Currently we use selected funeral directors to provide our Public Health Act Funerals, and generally these are cremations at Thornton or Southport Crematoria. They are not “paupers funerals” and should not be considered as lesser ceremonies. 

The funeral directors provide transport, for the deceased, from their funeral parlour to the crematoria in a simple wooden casket with a brass name plaque. Anyone wishing to attend the funeral will have to make their own way there. 

They are full and dignified funerals with the relevant minister, clergy or celebrant as necessary, music can generally be provided given sufficient notice. 

Once the cremation has taken place the ashes are available to the next of kin, or can be scattered on the garden of remembrance. 

The legislation which instructs the Local Authority to oversee this duty also enables us to access the estate to remove the funds to finance these funeral arrangements. 


Last Updated on 16 October 2018