Court win as water company cracks down on ‘fatberg’ culprits
18 Jan 2018
Tougher responses from water companies to businesses responsible for blocking sewers with fat, oil and grease could be on the way after a restaurant in Shrewsbury was successfully prosecuted in court.
SCE Catering Limited, owner of Saffron Cottage, received a maximum fine at Telford Magistrate’s Court, under section 111 of the Water Industry Act.
Chris Giles, head of network operations for Severn Trent Water, which brought the case, commented: “The verdict in this case is an important milestone for us, and we really want this to make other companies think about what they are doing with regards to disposing of fats, oils and grease and how it impacts our customers.
“We clear around 50,000 blockages a year and fat contributes to the majority of those, as it binds together all the other things that end up in the sewer rather than the bin and creates huge lumps which block the sewers. This is totally avoidable.”
The verdict is an important milestone and we want to make other companies think about what they are doing with regards to disposing of fats, oils and grease
Chris Giles, head of network operations for Severn Trent Water
The water industry legislation makes it an offence to discharge anything into a sewer that may cause a blockage.
The court was told that the restaurant had been responsible for a substantial obstruction which resulted in the sewer overflowing into a nearby watercourse and polluting it.
Despite warnings from the water company in the form of onsite meetings and letters, the owners failed to comply.
Giles commented that the damage could have been avoided by the owners installing a small grease trap.
“Legal action is a last resort for us, but our customers and the environment shouldn’t have to suffer because of the actions of one business not following the rules, and ignoring our advice,” he said.
In court, SCE Catering entered a guilty plea, as a result of which magistrates reduced the fine to £9,266 including costs.
While fatberg-style incidents are increasingly common, especially in major cities, the Saffron Cottage case is only the third to have occurred in the UK, said Severn Trent, which was also responsible for one of the other successful prosecutions.