For the first time in Israel's history, the Ministry of Environmental Protection has taken a firm stand against the oil refineries located on the bank of the Kishon river in Haifa, with a demand to close the refineries submitted to the Prime Minister's Office at the behest of the minister, Ze'ev Elkin.
The estimated cost to restore the land around the refineries is estimated to be in the hundreds of millions of shekels due to the extensive chemical damage the land suffered since the refineries opened in 1934.
Kishon River, which houses the refineries on its banks, connects to the Haifa Bay - one of the most polluted places in the country due to the high concentration of factories in the area, high traffic, harbor activity, and climate and topography conditions that make the dispersal of polluting material tougher.
Over the years, the Ministry of Environmental Protection worked to reduce polluting elements in the area, but due to the heavy industrialization in the Bay, the pollution is still rampant.
Local residents and several environmental organizations have tried for years to force the factories out of the city's populated areas, but to no avail.
Now, the people living near one of the most polluted areas in Israel finally have the Ministry's support.
The director-general of the Environmental Protection Ministry, Guy Samet, sent a letter to the head of the Prime Minister’s Office, Ronen Peretz, declaring the ministry's support "for the gradual evacuation of Haifa's Bay petrochemical compound, all while under strict supervision to ensure it's done safely."
According to Samet, "past experiences have taught us that refineries that close without supervision tend to leave behind tremendous damage, such as tainted soil, polluting elements leaking into nearby water sources and harmful airborne emissions."
Samet warned that due to the decline in the use of refined oil, the refineries might soon close their doors and be abandoned with no supervision, causing their infrastructure to deteriorate and cause irreversible damage to the environment.
"The environmental damage might render the land unusable for further use by the public," wrote Samet in his letter to Peretz.
The Prime Minister's Office said in response: "We are reviewing the reports of the Ministry of Environmental Protection, along with reports submitted by the McKinsey consultancy company and relevant government departments."
First published: 15:44, 12.09.19