A Bristol recycling firm has vowed to defend itself after an investigation by the Environment Agency (EA) into hazardous waste.
Arrests were made after a raid at Churngold Recycling in what the EA said was the “biggest ever hazardous waste raid conducted in the UK”.
Agency investigators and Avon and Somerset Police raided several sites suspected of illegal treatment, dumping and trading of hazardous waste including heavy metals and asbestos.
According to the agency, Operation Durable is “a complex investigation into suspected toxic waste offences by an Avonmouth based company, its directors and senior management”.
A statement from Churngold Recycling said that it had been involved in a “technical dispute” with the EA.
“We regard the actions taken by the Environment Agency over the last few days as astonishing and will be defending our position and reputation extremely robustly,” it said.
Specialist crime staff have been brought in to support the investigation, with EA teams conducting interviews, carrying out searches and analysing evidence. Operation Durable is expected to take months to complete. The Health Protection Agency (HPA) is assessing any risk to public health.
Dr Isabel Oliver, regional director of Health Protection Agency South West, said: “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.”
The ten people arrested have all been released on conditional bail pending further enquiries until a date in January 2013.
Andy Higham, head of the Environment Agency’s National Environmental Crime Team 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.”
The Churngold statement said: “Churngold Recycling has been engaged in a technical dispute with the Environment Agency for several months concerning the categorisation of material as a product or a waste.
“The discussions are very complex and our legal team has been actively engaged to help resolve the issue. We are co-operating fully with both the police and the Environment Agency. All other Churngold companies remain unaffected and it is business as usual.”