A $71 million waste crime investigation squad has been established by the Victorian government to tackle illegal stockpiles of dangerous chemicals and toxic rubbish.
Environment Minister Lily D'Ambrosio on Wednesday announced the Waste Crime Prevention Inspectorate will be set up within the Environment Protection Authority, which is responsible for preventing pollution and waste.
The squad will work with emergency services, local councils and WorkSafe and other regulators to monitor, investigate and prosecute operators who dump or stockpile waste.
Ms D'Ambrosio said the government was giving the EPA the dedicated resources it needs to tackle the crime and keep the community safe.
"For too long, waste crime has undermined Victoria's recycling sector and put the community at risk with dangerous and illegal stockpiling," she said in a statement.
"The specialised Waste Crime Prevention Inspectorate will clean up this industry and make it fairer for businesses that do the right thing."
The move comes after two fires at warehouses full of illegally stored toxic chemicals at West Footscray and Campbellfield in 2018 and 2017.
The estimated annual costs to the government and the taxpayer are approximately $58 million in clean-up costs for abandoned waste sites, $105 million to respond to large stockpile fires and $30 million for illegal dumping.