Thames Water Authority v Blue and White Launderettes Ltd

JurisdictionEngland & Wales
CourtCourt of Appeal (Civil Division)
Judgment Date20 December 1979
Judgment citation (vLex)[1979] EWCA Civ J1220-6
Date20 December 1979

[1979] EWCA Civ J1220-6

In The Supreme Court of Judicature

Court of Appeal

(Civil Division)

(Appeal from Judgment of H.H. Judge Dow, of 16th October 1978.


Lord Justice Stephenson

Lord Justice Eveleigh (Not present)


Lord Justie Brandon

Thames Water Authority
Blue And White Launderettes Limited

MR. D. WIDDICOMBE, Q.C., and MR. J. LAWS (instructed by R.A.R. Gray, solicitor to the Thames Water Authority) appeared on behalf of the Appellants (Plaintiffs).

MR. J.R. GORMAN, Q.C., and MR. J. POY (instructed by Messrs. Swatton, Hughes & Co.) appeared on behalf of the Defendants (Respondents).


The judgment which I am about to read first is the judgment of Lord Justice Eveleigh, who is unable to be present this morning.


"This is an appeal from the judgment of the county court judge sitting at Clerkenwell County Court whereby he dismissed the plaintiffs' claim for £1,355.27, being charges in respect of the discharge of effluent from 9 different launderette premises. He did so on the basis that the effluent which came from the washing machines on the premises was domestic sewage within the meaning of section 14 of the Public Health (Drainage of Trade Premises) Act 1937 and therefore not chargeable as trade effluent. The relevant part of section 14(1) of the Act reads:

"'trade effluent" means any liquid, either with or without particles of matter in suspension therein, which is wholly or in part produced in the course of any trade or industry carried on at trade premises and, in relation to any trade premises, means any such liquid as aforesaid which is so produced in the course of any trade or industry carried on at those premises, but does not include domestic sewage; "trade premises" means any premises used or intended to be used for carrying on any trade or industry'.


"This appeal is solely concerned with the question whether or not the effluent is in relation to those premises trade effluent or domestic sewage within the meaning of that section. It is admitted that the premises are trade premises but for completeness and no doubt mindful of judicial ignorance a description of a launderette has been placed before the court. It is as follows:

'A shop-like premises, equipped with a number of large automatic washing machines, which may or may not be coin operated, supplied with hot water from a central source, and with about one tumbler dryer for about each three washing machines. There may or may not be an attendant to undertake "service washing" (i.e., the customer leaves the washing with the attendant, who puts it through the machines, to be collected later). Soap can usually be bought from a dispenser on the premises. There may or may not be staff facilities, such as an office, lavatories or rest room'.


Further it was agreed between the parties that for the purposes of the action and this appeal the discharge from an ordinary householder's washing machine is similar to that from a washing machine in a launderette in both its constituents and its strength.


"I turn to consider the meaning of trade effluent in the Act without regard to any authorities there might be on the matter. I read the definition as giving two meanings to trade effluent. The first is toapply generally and the second is applicable only when the matter has to be considered in relation to trade premises. The words "But does not include domestic sewage', in my opinion, apply only to the second meaning. I say this because the words which follow the phrase 'In relation to any trade premises' have exactly the same meaning as those which appear before the phrase, save for the reference to 'domestic sewage'. The relevant part of the definition may therefore be stated as saying that in relation to any trade premises trade effluent does not include domestic sewage.


"We are therefore concerned to ask whether the effluent from the washing machines is domestic sewage in relation to the premises on which those machines stand.


"Counsel for the respondent has submitted that the water discharged from a washing machine in a house must be domestic sewage and the liquid in the present case is identical and must therefore be covered by the same description. Such an approach would, in my opinion, lead to the conclusion that almost anything which could be classified as domestic sewage when emmanating from a house must of necessity be domestic sewage when coming from a factory in spite of its being used only in the process of manufacture carried on in that factory. Counsel has argued that this would not be a necessary conclusion because the process of washing the clothes is one which is done in what is virtually an identical way in a similar machine in the home. In my opinion, however, that comparison does not go far enough. One should ask also the purpose for which the activity is carried on. No doubt clothes may be washed for a reward in a private home. However, when one asks whether washing water is domestic sewage or not one decides in favour of that description not by having regard to the possibility of use for business purposes, but on the basis of its use for domestic purposes.


"Upon trade premises one would expect there to be a source of effluent that is not related to the trading or industrial processes carried on there. The establishment will have its domestic side as well as its truly business side. The words 'wholly or in part produced in the course of any trade' are almost wide enough to include anything which comes from the premises used by people working there. 'In the course of is a phrase often considered by lawyers and has been shown to have a wide embrace. Washing room activities for personal cleanliness might well be said to give rise to effluent in the course of trade or industry carried on at the premises. In my opinion the exclusiong of domestic sewage is intended to relate to the household activities on the premises, the domestic activities of thosewho work there as opposed to the effects of the business activities. I would, therefore, conclude from the words of section 14 itself that the water discharged from the washing machine in a launderette is trade effluent within the meaning of the section, and not domestic sewage.


"I gain support for this conclusion from sections 1 and 4 of the Act. Section 1(1) provides:

'…. the occupier of any trade premises within the district of a local authority may, with the consent of the local authority discharge into the public sewers of the local authority any trade effluent proceeding from those premises'.


Section 4(4) (now repealed) provides:

'The consent of a local authority to the discharge, from any premises into a sewer of the local authority, of any liquid produced solely in the course of laundering articles on those premises shall not be necessary for the purposes of this Act'.


Certainly in so far as that subsection is concerned it would appear that liquid produced solely in the course of laundering articles on trade premises" is regarded as trade effluent.


"The distinction between domestic sewage and a liquid produced in a manufacturing process is indicated by the proviso to section 34(1) of the Public Health Act 1936, which reads:

'Provided that nothing in this sub-section shall entitle any person-)

(a) to discharge directly or indirectly into any public sewer-

(i) any liquid from a factory; other than domestic sewage or surface or storm water, or any liquid from a manufacturing process;……"


"We have been referred on behalf of the respondents to a number of authorities in which counsel submits the court has treated water as domestic even though it was used for business purposes. Foremost among these is Metropolitan Water Board v. Avery (1914) Appeal Cases, 118. That case and the others to which we were referred dealt with the provisions of section 25 of The Metropolitan Water Board (Charges) Act 1907. Various reasons were given in those cases for treating the water as being supplied for domestic purposes prominent among which was that use for business purposes did not detract from the domestic use for which the water was in any event supplied. In Metropolitan Water Board v. Avery water was supplied to the licensee of a public house where luncheons were served and the water was used for cooking the food and washing up the plates and dishes. It was held that the water was used for domestic purposeswithin the meaning of section 25 of the Metropolitan Water Board (Charges) Act 1907. That section, which was not strictly a definition section, stated that the expression 'domestic purposes' should be deemed to include certain uses but should not include a supply of water for a specified number of purposes of which 'any trade manufacture or business' was one. Lord Dunedin, at page 124, in a passage much relied upon by counsel for the respondent said:

'On the other hand, the test of the quality of the use in itself - so tersely put by Lord Justice Buckley "The test is not whether water is consumed or used in the course of the trade, but whether the user of the water is in its nature domestic" - is not only easy of application but is automatic in checking abuse. For purposes truly domestic cannot be amplified, and when the consumption on such heads is large it is invariably attended by an increase in the rating value of the premises which brings with it an increased water rate'.


I do not regard him as saying that a use which might be found to exist domestically will be properly called domestic where ever found and no matter the extent and purpose of the use from the point of view of the person to be charged. This follows, in my opinion, from a further passage from Lord Dunedin's speech at page 125, where he considered public baths or public water closets carried on for profit. He said:

'My Lords, I think...

To continue reading

Request your trial
3 cases
  • Boots UK Ltd v Severn Trent Water Ltd
    • United Kingdom
    • Queen's Bench Division (Commercial Court)
    • 17 January 2018
    ...not apply. 62 The second authority to which both parties referred on the meaning of the 1937 statutory definition was Thames Water Authority v Blue and White Laundrettes [1980] 1 WLR 700. That case concerned whether the liquid produced by a laundrette was trade effluent or whether it was ex......
  • Boots UK Ltd v Severn Trent Water Ltd
    • United Kingdom
    • Court of Appeal (Civil Division)
    • 13 December 2018
    ...were the premises at which it was produced. In this case all the mixed liquid is produced at Boots' factory. 18 Thames Water Authority v Blue and White Launderettes Ltd [1980] 1 WLR 700 concerned the discharge of soapy water from washing machines in a launderette. This court rejected the......
  • Thames Water Authority v Blue and White Launderettes Ltd
    • United Kingdom
    • House of Lords
    • Invalid date

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT