Sixty investigators from the Environment Agency supported by Avon & Somerset Police made dawn raids on several sites as part of an ongoing investigation into the suspected illegal treatment, dumping and trading of hazardous waste including heavy metals, asbestos and other construction materials.
Operation Durable is an investigation into suspected toxic waste offences by an Avonmouth based company, its directors and senior management. It is expected to take many more months to complete.
The Health Protection Agency (HPA) is involved because of the nature of the waste and it will continue to assess any risk to public health.
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. Investigators are also working on information that there are other sites.
The 10 who were arrested were questioned by the Environment Agency’s National Environmental Crime Teams (NECT) before being released on conditional bail pending further enquiries until a date in January 2013.
NECT head Andy Higham 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, 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.”