Taskforce launched to catch waste crooks

Illegal waste sites to be closed down and operators prosecuted.

Illegal waste sites are to be targeted by a new environmental crime taskforce, it has been announced.

The Environment Agency says illegal waste sites pose a real threat to the environment, contaminating land and rivers with oil and toxic chemicals.

They can also pose a risk to human health and blight communities, threatening air quality with toxic fumes from illegally burnt materials and by causing noise and odour problems from operations near homes and schools.

Environment Minister Lord Taylor told the Midweek Herald: “These illegal waste sites do untold damage to the environment and cause misery for local people that have to live with toxic fumes, noise at all hours and unbearable smells.

“We are cracking down on those sites that blight our communities and will work with the police and other partners to bring the criminals behind them to justice.”

Richard Cresswell, Regional Director of the Environment Agency in the South West, said: “Waste crime is a serious offence that poses a risk to human health and can damage the environment. The Environment Agency is working with all enforcement agencies to stamp it out. If you’re involved in illegal waste activities, you should be looking over your shoulder and expecting a visit from our enforcement officers.

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“The Environment Agency relies on members of the public and legitimate businesses to help us identify the culprits. They can call us or Crimestoppers with information. And we’ll press for the strongest possible penalties - including prison - for those convicted of these crimes against communities.

“Responsible waste management needs to be carried out without endangering human health and the environment. Many environmental offences have a negative impact on communities and legitimate businesses and we must ensure that illegal waste operators do not profit and the worst offenders are prosecuted.”

Around 600 illegal waste sites have been identified in England and Wales – and the Environment Agency estimates that over 300 of these are within 50 metres of schools, homes or sensitive environmental sites. Identifying the sites and closing them can often involve complex investigations and legal action.

The new taskforce, which includes former police detectives, will work closely with enforcement partners to gather intelligence and act quickly to close illegal waste sites. The taskforce will be supported by up to �5million of Environment Agency funding for the first two years.

The big push announced today is part of the Environment Agency’s continued action to combat serious, organised waste crime.

Increasingly, those involved in waste crime are often involved in other criminal activities such as drugs and theft.

Working closely with key partners, including local authorities and the police, the Environment Agency stopped, or brought into regulation, 1195 illegal waste sites and took over 400 waste-related prosecutions during 2010/11. In the last six months the Environment Agency was granted court orders to recoup almost �1million from offenders through the Proceeds of Crime Act.

Anyone with information about suspected illegal waste operators should call the Environment Agency’s incident helpline on 0800 807060 or call Crimestoppers in confidence on 0800 555 111.