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Hospitality giant fined for letting fat block sewers

Wednesday 9th June 2021 11:52

A pub management company has been fined after allowing fat and oil to get into the Thames Water sewer network

A pub management company has been fined after allowing fat and oil to get into the Thames Water sewer network

One of the country’s largest pub management companies has been ordered to pay more than £90,000 after allowing huge amounts of fat and oil to get into the Thames Water sewer network in Oxfordshire.

Mitchells & Butlers Leisure Retail Ltd, which owns pub and restaurant chains including Toby Carvery, Harvester and Miller & Carter, was accused of failing to prevent cooking fat, oil and grease entering the sewers at The Turnpike pub in Kidlington, dating back to 2017.

Appearing at High Wycombe Magistrates’ Court recently (May 28), the company pleaded guilty to breaches of the Water Industry Act 1991 and was fined £75,000, the highest amount handed out for this section of the act, along with £3,000 in compensation and costs of £13,000.

Anna Boyles, who oversees Thames Water’s sewer protection team, said: “Fats, oils and greases from cooking are hugely damaging if they go down sinks and into the pipe network because when they cool, they congeal and form disgusting blockages – known as fatbergs.

“These blockages risk sewage backing up through the system and can even flood properties and cause catastrophic environmental damage in the form of pollution, so they’re something we take extremely seriously.

“We work closely with thousands of food outlets to help them install the right grease management equipment in their kitchens and, while the majority try very hard to put things right, we have no option but to take matters to court if issues are not corrected.

“Our network protection team is now working with the Mitchells & Butlers head office to ensure training, grease management and communication is improved throughout the whole estate.”

It is the second time Thames Water has prosecuted a company for allowing fat to enter the sewers, after a landmark case in March which saw a Henley-on-Thames pub and its landlord fined more than £16,000.

Steve Grebby, policy manager at the Consumer Council for Water (CCW), said: “The consequences of tipping cooking waste down the sink or drain can be absolutely devastating so we hope this court action sends a clear message that we need to protect our sewers.

“One of our commitments is to end the misery caused by sewer flooding but that depends on all of us – not just businesses – putting fat, oil and grease in the bin.”

The court heard The Turnpike was using a type of grease management called enzyme dosing, which doesn't remove fats and oils at source, meaning they can still cause problems in the sewer network.

Thames Water tried to contact Mitchells & Butlers eight times, including five in-person visits, with Judge Malcolm Dodds adding: “This wasn’t just an isolated incident.”

Mitchells & Butlers, which has more than 400 pubs and restaurants within the Thames Water region, has now committed to installing grease traps and other equipment at all of its premises to stop fats and oils getting into the sewer network in the future.

Each year Thames Water clears 75,000 blockages from its sewers, at a cost of £18million, with fatty build-ups a primary cause.