Water company takes restaurant to court for blocking sewers with fat, oil and grease

Severn Trent blocked sewer

A Staffordshire restaurant has been prosecuted by a water company for blocking sewers with fat, oil and grease in what has been described as a “landmark case” for the industry.

Café Saffron in Codsall was taken to court by Severn Trent after its poor FOG practices led to nearby businesses being unable to flush their toilets.

It is the first time that Severn Trent has prosecuted a business for blocking the sewers with fat and only the second time a case of th is type has ever been brought in the UK.

The owners of Codsall were ordered to pay a total of £5,495, including costs, at Wolverhampton Magistrates’ Court.

Under section 111 of the Water Industry Act it is an offence to discharge anything into the sewer that may interfere with the free flow.  In this case, blockages had been reported on several occasions, with complaints from neighbouring businesses that they couldn’t flush their toilets.

The restaurant was found to be the cause of the blockage with fat used in cooking being put down the drain and into the sewer where it coagulated and caused the blockages.

Severn Trent visited the premises on several occasions, sent various letters and had many conversations with the restaurant owners, asking for grease traps to be installed and warning of the consequences, but the owners refused.

Emma FitzGerald, managing director of wholesale operations for Severn Trent Water, 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 45,000 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.”

FitzGerald said that FOG-based blockages were “totally avoidable” and that by simply installing a small grease trap the restaurant could have prevented the situation.

“Legal action is a last resort for us, but our customers shouldn’t have to suffer because of the actions of one business not following the rules, and ignoring our advice,” she said.

The restaurant has, following the conviction, committed to install a grease trap.

Severn Trent is the UK’s second biggest water company. It serves 4.3 million properties in England and Wales. Its region stretches from mid-Wales to Rutland and from the Bristol Channel to the Humber.

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