Fine Lady Bakeries has been ordered to pay more than £180,000 after waste material from the business entered the local sewer network.

The Banbury-based company was fined £140,000 after pleading guilty to seven offences at Reading Magistrates Court and was ordered to pay £40,000 costs. Offences under the Water Industry Act 1991 included discharging trade effluent to a surface water sewer and discharging waste in excess of consented conditions to the local sewer network.

The prosecution followed a Thames Water investigation that found uncontrolled trade waste discharges occurring to the foul and surface water sewer systems. Surface water sewers are designed to take rain water to watercourses, such as rivers and streams, and are separate from foul water sewers, which deal with sewage.

Although no evidence of environmental damage was found, surface water sewers flow to public watercourses, meaning any contamination could cause harm to the environment, said Thames Water.

“The size of this fine, which is the largest that has been given at a trade effluent prosecution, reflects the seriousness of the breaches of consent and illegal discharges,” said Tony McHattie, trade effluent manager at Thames Water. “It should send out a strong message to every business that they need to take care and responsibility for the safe disposal of their waste.”

Commenting following the court hearing, Fine Lady Bakeries told British Baker that Thames Water discovered in summer 2017 that one of the sampling points used by Thames was not valid, and that an alternative point was found to be above consent levels.

“Sampling had not been taking place from this point, so the business was not aware that consent levels were being exceeded,” added the company. “It also became apparent that, due to the age of parts of the site, several internal drains were linked to the external storm drain systems. These discharges were collected in an interceptor and storm water leaving site was, in fact, clear when checked.”

Fine Lady Bakeries added that it had fully co-operated with Thames Water and worked “tirelessly at significant expense” to complete remedial work in a timely manner, which it said was noted by the judge hearing the case.

Gemma Beenham, investigation technologist at Thames Water, said the key purpose of regulating was to protect the public and the sewer network, and prevent environmental damage.

“Companies are responsible for knowing what is being discharged from their site and where this enters the public sewer system,” she said. “It’s very important they check and ensure they are discharging to the correct drainage systems and take appropriate measures to keep to their consent conditions.”