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    'Haifa Bay – Israel's most toxic area'
    Coalition for Public Health in Israel warns leak of hazardous materials in area will cost billions in damages. Ministerial Environmental Committee likens Bay to Wild West

    "The situation in Haifa Bay is highly volatile," a new report exploring the concentration of chemical industries and hazardous material caches in the area, warned Monday.


    The report, compiled by the Coalition for Public Health in Israel, was presented to the Knesset Health and Environment Committee.


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    The report also assessed the possible damage of a hazardous material leak, should any of the industries in Haifa Bay be compromised, and according to authors Dr. Vered Ben Shlomo and Prof. Nir Beker, the damages caused by a serous leak could amount to billions.


    Based on past, small-scale events, the report said that a bromine leak could result in $10 billion in damages, an ammonia leak could cause $3 billion in damages, a chlorine leak is likely to cost $1.3 billion and should cooking gas leak from one of he facilities, it would cause $500 million in damages.


    מפרץ חיפה (צילום: אחיה ראב"ד)

    Industrial zone at Haifa Bay (Photo: Ahiya Raved)


    The figures, the report stressed, are attributed to potential lose of life and exclude potential property damage. Since such leaks usually affect large areas, the damage assessments also exclude the costs of mass emergency forces' deployment, the evacuation of the area's residents and their compensation, and the crippling of the industries operations.


    Those would add hundreds of millions of dollars per plant to the damage assessments, the report said.


    Dr. Ben Shlomo qualified the findings, saying that "none of the experts we spoke to was willing to share information on future risks."


    "There is no actual regulation on the ground," Haifa City Councilman Shmuel Gelber, of the Green Party, said.


    "The various municipal committees have become a jumping-off point for the industrialists who invest in these projects. The residents suffer from the toxins and pollution and the environmental groups have no representation."


    Committee Chairman MK Dov Khenin (Hadash) also reviewed various unfaltering findings by the Knesset's Research Center, concluding that "Haifa Bay has become the Wild West."


    The reality in the area, as portrayed by the reports, "is very dangerous. The situation has to be regulated before it causes horrible damage to the thousands of people who reside in the area," he said.


    "This report is just the beginning of a public discourse that must be developed," Khenin said. He further urged the Environmental Protection Ministry to commission a wide-scale environmental impact survey for the area.


    "We will reach the proper conclusion only when we have hard figures that demonstrate how much it would cost to deal with the situation now versus how much it would cost to do nothing," he concluded.





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    Industrial zone at Haifa Bay
    Photo: Elad Gershgoren