Waste crime poses a significant threat to the environment, public health, and legitimate businesses. Landowners often find themselves unwittingly entangled in these criminal activities when their rented properties become dumping grounds for illegal waste. In order to address this issue and prevent further harm, the Environment Agency has been actively engaging with landowners, raising awareness, and providing guidance on waste management regulations. By fostering collaboration between enforcement officers and landowners, proactive measures can be taken to detect, report, and swiftly address instances of waste crime. In a recent blog posted at GOV.UK, an enforcement officer highlights the crucial role of landowners in preventing waste crime and shares a real-life example of working closely with a landowner to mitigate environmental damage caused by an illegal end-of-life vehicle (ELV) facility. Through such partnerships, we can collectively safeguard our environment and ensure the responsible and sustainable management of waste.
In the case of a potential illegal waste site in Harpurhey, Manchester, the Environment Agency’s Enforcement Officer for Greater Manchester, Merseyside, and Cheshire was called to investigate the matter. This officer, driven by a passion for protecting the environment, people, and legitimate businesses, frequently encounters landowners who have fallen victim to unscrupulous individuals who illegally deposit waste on their land, leaving them with significant cleanup costs.
The officer emphasises the importance of landowners being vigilant about who they rent their land to and being aware of the rules and regulations that their tenants must follow for specific activities. Landowners may also need to apply for permits or exemptions themselves. Lack of awareness is sometimes a contributing factor to waste crimes, as not all offences are committed maliciously.
In the case of the suspected illegal site, a member of the public reported it to the Environment Agency’s incident hotline. The site was believed to be an unauthorised end-of-life vehicle (ELV) facility where cars and vehicles are dismantled for spare parts or recycling. This process generates hazardous waste and chemicals, including waste oils, fuel, batteries, and mercury-containing parts. Operating an ELV facility requires an environmental permit from the Environment Agency and a Scrap Metal Dealers’ License from the local council to ensure compliance with environmental standards.
To investigate the matter further, the Enforcement Officer conducted checks to determine if the site had a registered permit. However, no record was found, prompting an on-site investigation. Working in collaboration with the Greater Manchester Police, the officer discovered that the ELV facility was operating without a permit. Evidence was collected, and guidance was provided to the operator on the correct procedures. A letter was issued, instructing the removal of the waste within 28 working days, as per the Regulators Code.
During a subsequent visit a few weeks later, it was found that the operator had complied with the letter, ceased operations, and cleared the site of waste. Additional checks were conducted to ensure that the waste had been transported to an appropriately permitted facility for processing.
The proximity of the site to the River Irk posed a risk of water pollution, especially since the area experienced frequent flooding. The site lacked a sealed drainage system, a requirement for permitted sites, and the operator was depolluting vehicles directly on the yard floor without using covered containers. This raised concerns that any oil or fuel on the ground would be washed into the river during floods. Given that the site was also near a reservoir, which is a recognized local wildlife site, even a small amount of oil could have significant ecological impacts. Just one litre of oil can pollute 1 million litres of water, leading to decreased oxygen levels, fish kills, damage to riverbank vegetation, and disruption of water treatment processes.
Throughout the investigation, it became evident that the landowner was aware of the business being operated on his land but was unaware of the requirement for a permit in running the ELV facility. Furthermore, the landowner did not realize that he would be responsible for removing the waste and remediating the site if the tenant abandoned it and caused environmental damage.
The potential cost of correctly clearing the site of ELV waste could have reached £50,000 for the landowner, in addition to the inconvenience of arranging the cleanup. The landowner expressed gratitude for the assistance provided by the Environment Agency and was fortunate to have a cooperative tenant, as many offenders disappear, leaving landowners to bear the consequences of waste crimes.
The Environment Agency urges landowners who suspect illegal waste processing or dumping on their land to contact them at 0800 80 70 60 or report anonymously to Crimestoppers at 0800 555 111. By working together, landowners and enforcement agencies can prevent waste crimes and safeguard the environment.
Images from Source environmentagency.blog.gov.uk