Haifa's Kishon River has become infamous for the extremely high levels of pollution due, allegedly, to industry in the area. Many soldiers in the Navy have become sick, apparently from working in the polluted waters of the river, and this case has been ongoing for many years.
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Inspectors in the ministry's marine and coastal department launched an independent probe into the issue following reports regarding pollution in a fishing marina located in one of Kishon River's estuaries. The inquiry led the to a nearby IDF marine base, which, contrary to what IDF officials led the ministry to believe, had never been connected to a sewerage system, and has been dropping its waste, including industrial oils, into the river.
Ministry officials said the base was not included in a report submitted two years earlier by the IDF, specifying all the military facilities not connected to sewerage systems; it was this omission, officials said, which enabled the base to go unexamined by environmental inspectors, though the spillage is suspected to have been carrying on unnoticed for years.
The probe revealed that IDF officials in the base installed a few years earlier equipment designed to minimize the spillage of toxic pollution into the river. It is suspected, however, that once the implementations failed, officials at the base brought the fact to the attention of their superiors at the Navy Command. Reportedly, they were told there were no budgetary means available to deal with the malfunction, and that no further steps were taken since.
The probe has not yet reached completion. Its findings will be forwarded to the Military Prosecutor's Office.
Reni Amir, the head of the ministry's marine and coastal department, issued a warning to navy chief Ram Rothberg prior to taking legal action against the navy. Following this measure the spillage problem was immediately fixed by hiring an independent body specializing in disposing of toxic waste.
Ministry inspectors also claimed Navy officials at the base kept them waiting outside the facility for approximately two hours before letting them inspect the base, in contravention to the established code of conduct between the ministry and the navy. Thus officials at the base are also suspected in attempted obstruction of justice.
The revelation has implications that go further than the specific case. For years, on the heels of a Yedioth Ahronoth exclusive, the extremely high levels of pollution in the Kishon river were blamed exclusively on the factories sitting on the river bank. Now the role of the IDF in spilling industrial oils and metallic waste has come to the fore, though providing exact figures regarding the extent of the spillage from the base is most likely to prove impossible.
IDF Spokesperson's Unit told Yedioth Ahronoth that "the issue is under investigation by the 'green police' at the Ministry for Environment. Their findings will be forwarded to the Military Prosecutor's Office." The spokesperson added he believed the inspectors were not impeded in the process of their inquiry into the base.
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