EA raids 60 illegal waste sites in ‘day of action’
More than 60 suspected illegal waste sites across England were given surprise inspections by the Environment Agency in a ‘day of action’ against waste crime yesterday (March 28).
Over 100 Agency officers visited sites as part of the coordinated action – codenamed Operation Cyclone – including scrap metal yards in the North East suspected of carrying out illegal vehicle dismantling and major construction projects in the South East where construction waste was suspected of being disposed of unlawfully.
Roadside stop and searches of vehicles were also carried out in conjunction with Police, Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA), British Transport Police, HMRC and Trading Standards, as well as aerial reconnaissance to check for activity at suspected illegal sites.
Officers also used SmartWater to mark waste, in order to provide future evidence of whether it is dumped or exported and support potential EA prosecutions. Items with SmartWater on them can be tracked using GPS systems and the liquid also becomes visible under ultraviolet light.
Mat Crocker, the Agency’s head of illegals and waste, said: “Illegal waste sites undercut legitimate business, can cause severe damage to the environment and misery for local residents. We are determined to make life hard for criminals. Our day of action should send a clear message to legitimate business that we are supporting them by disrupting and stopping the criminal element.
“The Environment Agency has specialist teams who work in partnership with the Police and agencies like Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA) and HMRC to tackle waste crime. But everyone can play their part by reporting waste crime to us or Crimestoppers.”
The day of action comes as part of an ongoing blitz on illegal waste sites by a dedicated Environment Agency’s Taskforce, set up in 2001 and supported by around £5 million of funding (see letsrecycle.com story). In 2012 the Environment Agency shut down 1,135 illegal sites.
In the coming days, Agency staff will be reviewing evidence to revisit sites or ramp up enforcement action. But, the Agency claims that over a dozen new investigations have already resulted from the day.
The EA gained new powers in 2012 to check the records of owners of scrap sites and end-of-life vehicles to identify possible routes for metal theft, refuse permits on this basis and flag activities to British Transport Police.
Information from the investigations will be shared with Police, HMRC and other enforcement organisations.
Suspected waste crimes should be reported to the Environment Agency incident hotline on 0800 807060 or anonymously to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.