New taskforce will tackle illegal waste sites that blight communities

© All rights reserved by Environment AgencyA specialist environmental crime taskforce which will blitz illegal waste sites in England and Wales over the next two years has been set up by the Environment Agency, it was announced today.

Illegal waste sites can 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.
600 active illegal waste sites.

The Environment Agency has identified approximately 600 active illegal waste sites in England and Wales – and it estimates that over 300 of these sites 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.
Waste crime taskforce.

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.

Recent prosecutions

In August 2011, a Berkshire man was given a two year community service order a month after being ordered to pay almost £900,000 for running an illegal waste site which had a serious impact on local residents. People living near the site suffered serious disturbance at night from powerful floodlights and noise from barking dogs and car crushing operations.
In another example, the Environment Agency prosecuted a Leicestershire company for illegally burning waste and affecting local air quality. Nearby residents’ homes were affected by smoke. The defendant was fined over £10,000.
On 30 November, a contractor was fined over £22,000 in relation to an illegal waste site in Ynysybwl, near Pontypridd. Environment Officers found illegally treated and stored waste at the site including asbestos, stone, soil, wood and metals as well as general household waste.

Cracking down on waste crime

Environment Minister Lord Taylor said:

“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.”

The Welsh Minster for Environment and Sustainable Development, John Griffiths, said:

“Environment Agency Wales has been at the forefront of tackling waste crime and I welcome the creation of this taskforce.

“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.”

Environment Agency Chief Executive, Dr Paul Leinster, 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.

“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.”

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