The government approved on Sunday a NIS 63 million Environmental Protection Ministry plan to shut down a southern waste site that has long been posing hazards to Ashdod area residents.
The site in question is the Retamim landfill near Ashdod, which operated from the 1960s through 2003, the Environment Ministry said.
Yet fires occurring at the site today continue to release toxic gases into the air and to endanger lives of local residents, according to the ministry.
“We decided to remove the dangerous cloud hanging over the inhabitants of Ashdod and the region,” Environmental Protection Minister Amir Peretz said.
“Many landfill sites are ticking time bombs of toxic materials and gases that have accumulated over the years and must be treated.”
In November 2013, the Environment Ministry began receiving hundreds of complaints from Ashdod region residents about a bad odor and a burning sensation in their eyes, caused by air pollution coming from the direction of the Retamim landfill.
When representatives of the Environment Ministry and of Ashdod-Hevel Yavne Regional Association for Environmental Protection visited the site soon after, they uncovered a severe situation, in which garbage was burning in large parts of the mountain, the ministry said.
Portions of the site are still burning today, and the ministry has expressed concern that the fires will spread to other areas of the landfill, such as those containing fuels and hazardous wastes.
Results of measurements conducted in the vicinity of the site indicated the presence of air pollutants such as formaldehyde and benzene, the ministry added.
“We will not compromise on the air quality of Ashdod and the surrounding area’s residents,” Peretz said prior to the plan’s approval. “In recent months, we have had intensive discussions with all the relevant parties and we made it clear that if tens of millions of shekels are not invested now in the dangerous garbage mountain’s rehabilitation, then the price will only rise millions at the risk of residents living in the area. This is an important decision that will prevent unnecessary damage to human life.”
The NIS 63m. plan will task the Israel Lands Authority with implementing a systematic monitoring program to examine the levels of air pollution emitted from the site while performing its shutdown. Funding for the evacuation will be split evenly among the Environment Ministry, the ILA and the Finance Ministry.
In addition to planning the closure of this site, Peretz said he has instructed members of his ministry to formulate a larger national plan for the treatment and rehabilitation of landfill and hazardous waste sites around the country.