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Prosecution sees pub and landlord fined for “sewer abuse”

A pub and its landlord have been fined more than £16,000 for allowing cooking fat and oil to enter a town’s sewer network, in a landmark case brought by Thames Water.

Mark Dunlop, who owns the Angel on the Bridge in Henley-on-Thames, pleaded guilty to breaching the Water Industry Act in court on 12 March.

Thames Water said it was the first time it had prosecuted a food outlet for “sewer abuse” – a practice which it said was responsible for thousands of blockages and fatbergs every year.

The case covered several instances between 2017 and 2019 where significant amounts of fat, oil and grease from the pub’s kitchen were allowed to get into the sewer network.

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Anna Boyles, who oversees Thames Water’s sewer protection team, said: “Cooking fat and oil from homes and businesses cause huge problems when it gets in our sewers as it congeals and blocks the pipes. When this happens, sewage backs up through the system and can flood properties and cause catastrophic environmental damage, so it’s something we take extremely seriously. 

“In most cases we’re able to work with food outlets and support them to install the right equipment in their kitchens to capture fat, oil and grease, but if they don’t change their behaviour we have no other option. Taking someone to court is always a last resort and this is the first time we’ve had to go this far. We’re pleased The Angel on the Bridge now has the right kit installed to stop more fat entering the sewers.”

In total a Thames Water team that is dedicated to dealing with food outlets in sewer blockage hotspots visited, wrote to, and called the Angel on the Bridge’s management, including Mr Dunlop, 15 times to discuss its abuse of the sewers before the decision to prosecute was finally made.

In court the judge described the pub’s practices as “a serious potential environmental issue”. Mr Dunlop was personally ordered to pay £7,170, while the business must pay £9,170, making a total of £16,340.

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