Three men have been arrested in a series of early morning raids across three counties as part of an investigation into illegal dumping of drums filled with chemicals.
The Environment Agency, working with police, swooped on homes and industrial areas, in Lancashire, County Durham and Merseyside
In all nine sites - including six between Preston, Leyland, Tarleton and Skelmersdale; two in Hartlepool and one in Moreton-in-the-Wirral - were targeted.
The raids come after a six-month investigation that followed the discovery of three abandoned lorry trailers loaded with 96 large drums containing various chemicals including acids, solvents and pharmaceuticals.
The agency's environmental crime officer, Eddie Platt, said: "Dumping waste illegally puts human health and wildlife at risk - and undermines the legitimate waste industry.
"These trailers were loaded with barrels containing hazardous and highly flammable chemicals that were left abandoned in remote areas of Shropshire, Lancashire and Yorkshire earlier this year.
"These are dangerous chemicals that need to undergo a number of specialist treatments before disposal, to prevent harm to the environment.
"Dumping waste illegally is a serious crime with serious penalties - up to five years in prison and unlimited fines. The Environment Agency's specialist crime teams have worked hard to gather intelligence that links these crimes together.
"Our message today is simple: waste crime will not be tolerated and every effort will be made to arrest, convict and punish those involved."
The investigation continues.
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