Banbury-based Fine Lady Bakery, which supplies bread and other bakery products to supermarkets around the country, pleaded guilty to seven offences at Reading Magistrates Court following a Thames Water investigation.
The probe found uncontrolled trade waste discharges from the bakery in both the foul and surface water sewer systems, the latter of which are designed to take rain water to watercourses, such as rivers and streams, meaning any contamination could cause significant harm to the environment.
No evidence of environmental damage was found but the judge said the bakery had been “negligent” and failed in its duty to take responsibility over what was being discharged from its site into the sewer network.
Fine Lady was fined £140,000 for the offences, which included discharging trade effluent to a surface water sewer and discharging waste in excess of consented conditions to the local sewer network, under the Water Industry Act 1991. It was also ordered to pay costs of £40,000.
“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,” Tony McHattie, trade effluent manager at Thames Water, said. “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.”
Gemma Beenham, investigation technologist at Thames Water, added: “The key purpose of regulating is to protect the public and our sewer network and prevent environmental damage. We take breaches like this very seriously.
“Companies are responsible for knowing what is being discharged from their site and where this enters the public sewer system. 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.”