The first bulldozers touched down on the shores of the Kishon River yesterday, where an extensive, three-year project to clean the river’s soil and divert its pathway began that day.

The project, which cost NIS 220 million, involves removing and treating contaminated soil from the river’s bottom, as well as rerouting a 1.5-kilometer portion of the Kishon River’s path to replace a stretch adjacent to Haifa Bay factories, according to the Environmental Protection Ministry. Prior to cleanups that began in the past decade, the Kishon River was considered the most polluted river in Israel, and has even been blamed by many for causing cancer in veterans of an army unit that trained there.

“This is a historic day – the Kishon begins its rehabilitation process,” Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan said.

The biological treatment of the contaminated soil will occur at a facility encompassing about 20 hectares near the riverbank. Work teams will also be closely monitoring the materials that they remove from the river, the ministry said.

When the rehabilitation process of both the stream and the surrounding landscape is complete, the public will be able to enjoy a river that allows for water sports and recreation, such as boating, on the grounds of an expansive park, according to the ministry.

In addition to removing soil contaminants and improving water quality, the rehabilitation team is developing alongside the river “a tremendous park of thousands of dunams, larger than Central Park in New York,” Erdan explained.

“We are correcting the mistakes of the past and removing all the pollution that has accumulated at the bottom of the river over the years,” the minister said. “Soon this river that was the most polluted in Israel will return to members of the public, who will be able to enjoy it.”

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