The prosecution, a first for local water board Severn Trent, came following visits to Café Saffron in Codsall, letters to and conversations with the owners about installing grease traps after it became apparent that fat used in cooking at the restaurant had been poured down the drain where it coagulated and caused blockages.
The problem came to light when the Indian restaurant's neighbouring businesses complained that they were unable to flush their toilets.
Yesterday (10 October) the restaurant was ordered to pay £5,495, including costs at Wolverhampton Magistrates' Court in what Severn Trent called a 'landmark case'. It is only the second example of such a case being brought in the UK and a first for Severn Trent.
Emma FitzGerald, managing director of wholesale operations for Severn Trent Water, said: “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.
"This is totally avoidable and in this case, simply installing a small grease trap 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.”
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.
Following its conviction, Cafe Saffron has committed to install a grease trap.