There are a number of environmental crime issues affecting the countryside, including fly tipped domestic and commercial waste, fuel laundering waste and large scale criminal dumping carried out by organised crime groups.
These crime groups make profits by avoiding legal waste disposal costs. Instead they may bury or dump commercial or toxic waste in rural fields, bogs or rivers: sometimes up to thousands of tonnes of waste at a time. Depending on the hazardous and toxic nature of the waste, it can pollute and poison the rural environment penetrating ground, waterways and the air.
Depositing waste within the countryside gives them the opportunity to illegally dump waste unseen and undetected; avoiding all costs associated with legitimate disposal and clean-up costs.
Illegal disposal can happen with or without the knowledge of the landowner. However in law and in practice, the landowner is ultimately responsible for their land and what happens on it. This means that they can be held legally responsible for pollution arising from the dumped waste and the clean-up costs.
Successful prosecutions could result in fines and/or imprisonment and potentially, the confiscation of money or other property shown to arise from financial benefit from the criminality. Conviction may also impact negatively on a range of agricultural authorisations and benefits, for example single farm payments.
The Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) is committed to working with the rural community to protect the environment and contribute to securing a thriving and sustainable economy. It is a member of the Organised Crime Task Force, the strategic multi agency forum which helps to tackle organised crime in Northern Ireland.
The message to farmers is a simple one -protect yourself and work with NIEA to protect the rural environment. Check your landowner responsibilities at https://www.daera-ni.gov.uk/publications/agricultural-waste-roles-and-responsibilities.
More generally if anyone has information about serious criminality or unscrupulous operators in and around the waste industry or wishes to report suspicious activity, please contact NIEA Enforcement Branch on 028 90 569453 /email email@example.com or Crime stoppers on 0800 7830137 – which is a completely anonymous service.