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Environment Agency introduces innovative technology to search for waste buried illegally

The Environment Agency today revealed its newest weapon in the war on waste crime. An innovative technology that can map what’s buried underground is being used by the agency to search for waste buried illegally, and make sure the polluter pays for its clean up.

The new technology will add to the armoury of CSI-style techniques used by the Environment Agency to tackle serious waste criminals. It will be used alongside sophisticated techniques including forensics, handwriting analysis and Smartwater tracking by a dedicated national environmental crime team. The team was set up in 2008 to target organised waste crime, and they are specialists in recovering the proceeds of crime.

Since 2008 the Environment Agency has closed 1,500 illegal waste sites, and fines for committing waste offences have doubled since 2003, from £1.4million to over £3million. But the Agency estimates that there are still approximately 800 illegal sites currently in operation and new technologies are vital tools in shutting them down. Illegal waste sites and organised criminal flytipping operations cost businesses and taxpayers millions of pounds every year to clean up.

The newest state of the art equipment, known as resistive tomography, is similar to the kit used on Channel 4’s Time Team programme and uses electrodes inserted into the ground at regular intervals to emit an electrical current. Some materials are more resistant than others to electrical current, which means a picture can be built up of what lies beneath the surface.

On its first outing for the agency, the technology uncovered a large area of buried waste in the New Forest National Park. It is estimated that the site will cost over £500,000 to clean up – a cost which will be passed on to the landowner who dumped the waste.

Chief Executive of the Environment Agency, Dr Paul Leinster, said: "This is just one of the many state of the art technologies that the Environment Agency uses to make sure that waste criminals are caught, prosecuted and made to pay for the clean up of the land they have polluted.

"By dumping waste illegally, waste criminals avoid landfill charges and undercut legitimate waste businesses, but more importantly they put the environment and human health at risk. We are making sure that waste crime does not pay, and have set up specialist crime teams to catch criminals and confiscate the assets they’ve gained from crime."

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