The protests over cancer-causing air pollution from industry in the Haifa district stepped up Monday morning, with residents of Atlit and the Hof HaCarmel coastal region gathering at the entrance to the Carmel Chemicals plant and demanding its closure.
Meanwhile, one of the refineries in the area ordered a crane to remove a garbage truck placed there by Haifa Municipality to block the entrance to the site. Haifa Mayor Yona Yahav ordered the measure on Sunday, in the wake of a damning report on air pollution in the city.
Local residents claim that the plant, which creates salt by-products, has been causing morbidity in the area.
Haifa Municipality continued to block the entrance to factories in the Haifa Bay with city garbage trucks as part of a protest to demand more information from the recent report, which found that half of the city's cancer cases stem from local air pollution.
On Sunday, Yahav signed closure orders for four factories in the Haifa Bay. Later on, the refineries began clearing the municipality trucks out of the way with cranes.
Last summer, a dangerous chemical spill took place at an Atlit factory after a barrel of poisonous chemicals spilled. Residents in the surrounding area complained of a strong smell and stinging in their eyes. According to the residents, rescue forces were not given entry to the site in order to take care of the hazard as required.
Protesters outside of the factories held up signs and shouting, "We will not let Atlit get cancer."
The protesters noted that a train from Haifa to Tel Aviv passes nearby the factory on a daily basis and that school children play soccer in a nearby field.
Yaron Shmuel, one of the protestors, said that three parents of children in his son's second grade class have died of cancer recently.
"The feeling is of real fear," said Shmuel. "There are places (in the area) that I am scared to go to and not willing to let my family go to, like the soccer field close to the factory. Right now we are seriously considering what to do. If this factory does not move from here – we will leave."
Ruti Friedman moved from Atlit to Haifa a few years ago. She recalls that a day after the chemical spill at the Atlit factory, local schools in the area were closed after the students said they suffered from a stinging sensation.
"Dozens of residents suffered of stinging then and other sensations and nobody knows what effect this will have in the long run," she said. "As far as I'm concerned, the council is responsible for moving this factory and enabling me a safe life."
Many of the complaints filed by the residents were transferred to the Hof HaCarmel Regional Council, which neighbors Atlit. The residents demanded the chairman of the council, Carmel Selah, shut down the factory in Atlit that has been operating without a business license since the spill last summer.
According to the deputy council chairman, Oren Oded, the authority to move the factory lies with the state and not the regional council. Oded said the council has been working within its jurisdiction to improve the security of the factory until it is moved.
"The factory is at a completely different place than it was half a year ago," says Oded. "Many actions have been taken to increase security. We expect it to comply with the highest standards in order to minimize the fear of further accidents."
Oded added that the plans to move the factory are already under way. "This factory will move from here and commercial and residential housing will be built in the place where it now stands."