Sixty Environment Agency investigators supported by Avon & Somerset Police swooped on several sites as part of Operation Durable, an ongoing investigation into the suspected illegal treatment, dumping and trading of toxic materials including heavy metals and asbestos.

The company targeted is Avonmouth-based Churngold Recycling. Its director and senior management have all been under surveillance. So far, ten people have been arrested and taken in for questioning, but all have since been released on conditional bail pending further enquiries.

The operation is expected to take many more months to complete, but the Health Protection Agency (HPA) is now involved because of the nature of the waste and specialist Environment Agency crime officers have been drafted in for 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 EA teams conducted interviews, began searches and analysis of evidence.

Andy Higham, head of the EA’s NECT, said: “Following a covert Environment Agency investigation we worked with police to successfully bring in suspects. This is a live and complex investigation.”

Maxine Perella

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