The biggest ever hazardous waste raid conducted in the UK results in multiple arrests following a series of dawn raids.
Sixty Environment Agency investigators supported by Avon and Somerset Police swooped on several sites as part of an ongoing major investigation into the suspected illegal treatment, dumping and trading of hazardous waste including heavy metals and asbestos.
Operation Durable is a complex investigation into suspected toxic waste offences by an Avonmouth based company, its Directors and senior management.
The Health Protection Agency (HPA) is closely involved because of the nature of the waste, they will continue to assess any risk to public health.
This investigation is ongoing and expected to take many more months to complete.
Ten people arrested
Specialist Environment Agency crime staff from across England and Wales have been brought in to support given the unprecedented scale of the investigation. Police have been deployed with EA staff to make arrests, gain access to properties and assist with collecting evidence. This week Environment Agency teams conducted interviews, began searches and analysis of evidence. Teams are also working on information that there are other sites.
Ten people have been arrested as part of Operation Durable and taken for questioning by the Environment Agency’s National Environmental Crime Teams. They have all been released on conditional bail pending further enquiries until a date in January 2013.
Andy Higham, Head of the Environment Agency’s NECT said: ‘The Environment Agency targets gravely negligent organisations and organised criminals who risk damaging heath, livelihoods and the environment. Following a covert Environment Agency investigation we worked with police to successfully bring in suspects. We take waste crime extremely seriously. This is a live and complex investigation, anyone with further information should contact Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.’
Dr Isabel Oliver, Regional Director of Health Protection Agency South West, said: ‘The Health Protection Agency has been supporting the Environment Agency investigation into an industrial site in Avonmouth, over recent weeks. As further information and data become available from the EA, other partners and the company involved, we will consider any potential risk to public health and provide relevant health advice where we can.’
Richard Ball, Head of Environment of Corporate Risk Systems said:’ It is critical that organisations are aware of where their waste is going, it is clear that waste is now part of organised crime, and that the enforcement agencies will prosecute individuals, especially were Hazardous waste regulations are breached.’
Anyone with knowledge of waste crimes can contact CrimeStoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111. To speak to the Environment Agency call 03708 506 506