State Attorney indicts EAPC for damaging 2011 contamination incidents

Among the charges being brought against the defendants are severe circumstances of water pollution, hazardous waste dumping and littering in a public domain.

January 18, 2016 18:39
3 minute read.

Members of a clean-up team work at the site of the EAPC oil spill at the Evrona desert reserve in the Arava.. (photo credit: REUTERS/BAZ RATNER)

As a result of two 2011 incidents in which fuel oil heavily contaminated southern Israel’s Nahal Zin, the State Attorney’s Office filed an indictment against the Eilat-Ashkelon Pipeline Company, along with 14 other defendants, with the Ashdod Magistrate’s Court on Monday.

Damage caused during renovation work on an EAPC jet fuel pipeline in June and September 2011 severely polluted both the stream itself and the surrounding area, according to the indictment. Among the charges being brought are severe water pollution, hazardous waste dumping and littering in the public domain, breach of supervisory requirements, violations of the Maintenance of Cleanliness Law and harm to national park land.

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The indictment was drafted by attorney Damti Sagi, of the land law enforcement division of the State Attorney’s Office, following an investigation conducted by the Environmental Protection Ministry’s Green Police and the Israel Nature and Parks Authority. EAPC operates the pipeline that stretches from Ashkelon to Eilat, part of which – a 153-km. stretch between Eshel Hanasi and Shizafon – is used for the transport of fuel oil, the indictment explained.

While not related to this indictment, EAPC made headlines in December 2014, due to a pipeline glitch that resulted in the spillage of some 5 million liters of crude oil in the Evrona Nature Reserve near Eilat.

After a 2007 evaluation of the portion of the pipeline that carries fuel oil indicated certain deficiencies that would prevent leak protection, the company decided to stop the flow in 2008, the indictment said. EAPC decided to renovate the pipeline through two contractors, the civil engineering firm Rolider and the Har Hanegev shipping firm – both of which are also included in the indictment, as well as individual executives from all three companies.

In the first event included in the indictment, a pipeline explosion occurred following excavation work being carried out by the work staff near the Gan Hapsalim National Park as part of the pipeline renovations.

The ensuing spillage led to the contamination of about 6 hectares in and around Nahal Zin, the document said.

Despite the fact that some 26,500 tons of contaminated soil were removed from the area, a significant amount of fuel oil remained in the river area after the rehabilitation, according to the indictment.

“The penetration of fuel placed the aquifers below Nahal Zin at risk of contamination,” a statement from the State Attorney’s Office said. “In addition, in and adjacent to the Nahal Zin channel, a pungent odor of fuel persisted for a long period of several months after the event.”

Flora and fauna in the region were also heavily damaged, and the necessary rehabilitation operations blocked the entrance to Sde Boker for three months as well, the indictment said.

The second incident described in the document occurred after the Environmental Protection Ministry approved the continuation of pipeline renovation work. The ministry granted the approval a few weeks following the first spillage, under the condition that EAPC take sufficient measures to ensure the leak’s repair, the indictment explained.

Nonetheless, about nine weeks after the first incident, the teeth of a power shovel became embedded in the pipeline during the ongoing renovation, leading to the spread of fuel oil to a number of channels leading to Nahal Zin once again, the document said. All in all, the second incident contaminated soil in the area and caused damage to the plants, animals and ecosystem of the surrounding area, according to the indictment.

In response to the document, a statement from EAPC said on Monday that “the claim has not yet been received by the company. When it is received, we will study it and relate to it,” the statement added.

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