The Environment Agency says improvements in its approach to reducing the number of high-risk illegal waste sites need to be made, as it appears set to miss targets for the 2019/20 financial year.
The public body recently published a corporate scorecard for the second quarter of 2019/20, covering July to September.
The scorecard showed the number of active high-risk sites known by the Environment Agency to be operating during that period increased for the third quarter in succession, from 260 to 264. The target for both the quarter and the year was to reduce the number to 196.
The scorecard reads: “During quarter two the number of active high-risk sites increased, for the third quarter in succession, from 260 to 264 whilst the total number of all active sites remained static at 691.”
The Environment Agency keeps a database of known illegal waste sites, of which it has become aware through investigations, reports or other means.
The Environment Agency says the total number of all active sites remained static at 691 during the three month period. The number of active sites more than two years old rose to 215.
On average it is took the Environment Agency 237 days to stop an illegal waste site, it says, despite 49% of new sites being stopped in less than 90 days.
There is a growing risk from the increasing age profile of active sites which merits greater focus in tandem with early intervention at new sites, the Environment Agency said.
It said Brexit and other pressures affected it ability to dedicate enough resources to tackling illegal waste sites and it was working to understand what more it could do to reduce their numbers in the short term.
The Environment Agency said it continued to train and embed additional staff funded by the £30 million budget for waste crime. A taskforce dedicated to tackling serious and organised waste crime was launched in January 2020 (see letsrecycle.com story).
The corporate scorecard is reported every three months to executive directors and the board within the Environment Agency. The figures shown use initial quarterly data which is subject to change.
The Environment Agency uses a traffic light system to show how it is performing. Green means it is performing at or above the targets set, amber means is falling slightly short and red means there are improvements to be made.
For the second quarter of 2019/20 the Environment Agency awarded itself a red for reducing the number of high-risk illegal waste sites. A red rating corresponds to being more than 10% off a target.
Serious pollution incidents
The Environment Agency also says there were nine incidents of serious pollution relating to illegal waste in the quarter.
The incidents included three illegal waste sites and three illegal dumping incidents. They occurred over four different areas and appear unconnected, the Environment Agency says.
Of the incidents, three have been recommended for prosecution, two for warning letters and one formal caution with the remainder either still under investigation or the offenders yet to be identified.
The Environment Agency gave itself a ‘green’ rating for protecting people, the environment and wildlife by reducing serious pollution incidents in the second quarter of 2019/20.