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Environment Agency uses new technology to fight waste crime

The Environment Agency is using underground detection technology to thwart illegal waste-dumping criminals.

The specialists on the environment crime team use the equipment to map buried materials before applying CSI-style techniques - like forensics, handwriting analysis and Smartwater tracking.

There are believed to around 800 illegal sites in operation, which - along with organised flytipping activity - cost businesses and taxpayers millions of pounds every year to clean up.

Similar to the kit used on Channel 4s Time Team programme, resistive tomography uses electrodes inserted into the ground at regular intervals to emit an electrical current. Each material has a different resistance to electric currents so a picture of what lies beneath can be quickly built up.

It has been used at landfills for the last year, but when the EA first set it to work against the big, the bad and the nasty, it uncovered a large area of potentially damaging buried waste in the New Forest National Park.  The costs of £500,000 to clean up the site will be passed onto the landowner who dumped the waste.

The tech also saves unnecessarily excavating sites where its only suspected that waste is concealed.

Environment Agency chief executive, Dr Paul Leinster, said the agency will confiscate assets waste criminals have gained from crime: By dumping waste illegally, waste criminals avoid landfill charges and undercut legitimate waste businesses.  But more importantly they put the environment and human health at risk.  We are making sure that waste criminals are caught, prosecuted and made to pay for the clean up of the land they have polluted.

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