10 people were recently arrested following a series of dawn raids as part of ‘Operation Durable’- the UK’s largest ever hazardous waste operation.
60 EA investigators carried out raids at numerous sites with the co-operation of Avon and Somerset Police. The sites were targeted as part of an on going investigation into the suspected illegal treatment, trading and dumping of hazardous waste materials including asbestos and heavy metals.
The Health Protection Agency (HPA) has also been involved and will continue to monitor and assess any risk to public health.
The EA said that the operation is an investigation into suspected toxic waste offences at an Avonmouth-based company involving its directors and senior management.
Police were deployed with EA staff to gain access to properties make arrests and assist with gathering evidence.
Those arrested in the raid were questioned by the EAs National Environmental Crime Team before being released on conditional bail until January 2013 pending further enquiries.
Due to the unprecedented scale of the operation EA crime staff from across England and Wales have now been drafted in to support the operation, which is expected to take many months to complete.
“The Environment Agency targets gravely negligent organisations and organised criminals who risk damaging heath, livelihoods and the environment,” explains Andy Higham, head of the EA’s National Environmental Crime Teams (NECT).
“Following a covert Environment Agency investigation we worked with police to successfully bring in suspects. We take waste crime extremely seriously,” he added.
Dr Isabel Oliver, regional director of the 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.”
Having heard about the success of Operation Durable, we think the results spell good news for the industry and for the public. The safe disposal of hazardous waste is vital in conserving our environment and for the safety of residents.