A specialist environmental crime taskforce has been launched to clamp down on illegal waste dumps.
The Environment Agency said the new taskforce includes former police detectives to gather intelligence and tackle illegal sites across England and Wales.
The EA said it had identified 600 active illegal sites, more than half of which are within 50m of schools, homes or sensitive environmental sites.
Environment Minister Lord Taylor said illegal sites cause misery for local people through fumes, smalls and noises, as well as environmental damage. He said: “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 EA said it shut down or brought into regulation 1,195 illegal waste sites and took over 400 waste-related prosecutions during 2010/11.
For example, in August a Berkshire man was given a two-year community service order and ordered to pay £900,000 for running an illegal waste site which had a serious impact on local residents who suffered disturbance at night from floodlights and car crushing operations.
Environment Agency chief executive, Dr Paul Leinster, said: “If you’re involved in illegal waste activities, you should be looking over your shoulder and expecting a visit from our enforcement officers.”
Ian Hetherington, director general of the British Metals Recycling Association (BMRA), welcomed the EA announcement. He said illegal scrap metal handling sites blighted the industry’s reputation “make a mockery of environmental protection laws and give illegal operators an unfair commercial advantage as well as providing a ready outlet for stolen metal”.
“BMRA vigorously supports a nationally coordinated approach to metal theft from the police and the Environment Agency. However, there is concern that the Environment Agency’s initiative has not been properly joined-up with the announcement of a separate £5 million metal theft taskforce made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his Autumn Statement.”