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Dead ibex at Ashalim Stream
Photo: Israel Nature and Parks Authority
Delay in Ashalim acid spill probe could result in lenient punishment
Environmental Protection Ministry having trouble finding engineering expert to examine the Rotem Fertilizer reservoir that collapsed at the end of June, causing a massive acid spill into the stream; delays in filing indictments often lead to plea deals.

Delays in the investigation into the ecological disaster at the Ashalim Stream could result in lenient punishment for those responsible—Rotem Amfert and its parent company, Israel Chemicals Ltd.

 

 

The acid spill threatens wildlife, plants and ground water in the nature reserve. Almost the entire ibex population has been wiped out, with many other animals dying as well. The acid waste also caused immense damage to the flora at the stream.

 

The Environmental Protection Ministry has yet to find an engineering expert to examine the Rotem Fertilizer reservoir that collapsed at the end of June, causing a massive acid spill into the stream.

 

The ecological disaster at the Ashalim Stream (Photo: Reuters)
The ecological disaster at the Ashalim Stream (Photo: Reuters)

 

The few experts in Israel could face a conflict of interest because they worked with Israel Chemicals in the past, and their testimony would therefore not be admissible in court.

 

Other experts in Israel declined their services, perhaps because they might want to work with the massive conglomerate in the future.

 

This led the ministry to look for experts abroad, who price their services at hundreds of thousands of dollars.

 

This leaves the ministry with little choice but to issue an international tender, which could take a long time.

 

The ecological disaster at the Ashalim Stream (Photo: Israel Nature and Park Authority)
The ecological disaster at the Ashalim Stream (Photo: Israel Nature and Park Authority)

 

"The ministry has been looking for expert consultants in recent weeks and is conducting a search abroad. This is a small area of expertise, and there aren't many consultants in this field," the Environmental Protection Ministry said in a statement. "We've recently located several experts, and we are examining how we could make use of their services."

 

The ecological disaster at the Ashalim Stream (Photo: Terrascan Labs LTD)
The ecological disaster at the Ashalim Stream (Photo: Terrascan Labs LTD)

 

In addition to undermining deterrence, delays in investigations and in filing indictments force the ministry to reach plea bargains resulting in mitigated punishments in many cases.

 

Such a deal was recently reached with the Haifa Oil Refinery, which is also under the control of Israel Chemicals Ltd. The prosecutor on behalf of the ministry confirmed one of the reasons for the plea deal was the delay in filing the indictment.

 

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