New crime taskforce to target illegal sites

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A SPECIALIST environmental crime taskforce has been set up to blitz illegal waste sites across the country.

The Environment Agency has identified around 49 active illegal waste sites in the East of England and Lincolnshire and is set to tackle them over the next two years.

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.

Last month, Deeping St James businessman Carl Steele was jailed for dumping more than 1,000,000 tyres at sites across the country.

The sites were found following the Environment Agency’s initial investigation of his site near Spalding.

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 health risk 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.

Nationally the Agency is aware of 594 active illegal sites of which it estimates that more than 300 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 big push 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, 1,195 illegal waste sites and took 174 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.

Environment Minister Lord Taylor said: “These illegal waste sites do untold damage to the environment and cause misery for people who 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.”

Anyone with information about suspected illegal waste operators should call the Environment Agency on 0800 807060 or Crimestoppers in confidence on 0800 555111.