The Land Enforcement Division of the State Attorney’s Office submitted an indictment to the Haifa Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday against Oil Refineries Ltd. for discharging wastewater into the Kishon River and the Mediterranean Sea.

Based on an investigation conducted by the marine and coastal division of the Environmental Protection Ministry, the indictment deems the defendants responsible for the discharge of wastewater, contrary to the conditions of their permit for the years 2010 and 2011. Four executives were also listed on the indictment, for failing to take adequate steps to monitor and do everything possible to avoid violating the Law for the Prevention of Pollution, the ministry said.

In January 2010, it rained down over the refinery, runoff water began accumulating in designated containers, the Environment Ministry explained. These containers, however, had not been sufficiently cleaned or emptied, and they contained contaminated wastewater. Because the company could not continue to accumulate water, workers emptied the contents into the Kishon River, which leads to the Mediterranean Sea, the ministry said.

Tens of thousands of cubic meters of water polluted with oils, E. coli and other materials were pumped – against the law – into the Kishon River and from there into the sea, according to the ministry.

The discharged wastewater was discovered by Environmental Protection Ministry inspectors during a routine tour. They noticed that water was flowing from an Oil Refineries pipe into the river and that black spots appeared in the river.

Only following specific instructions from the ministry’s marine and coastal division and the Kishon River Authority did the company begin to take action toward preventing the spread of contamination, the ministry said.

Despite this incident, the following year Oil Refineries made no further preparations for the arrival of winter.

April 2011 saw heavy rains, and one of the containers was filled with contaminated water. Due to the absence of adequate pumping mechanisms, the already-polluted container filled up. For about 24 hours, tens of thousands of cubic meters of very murky and polluted water flowed into the river, the ministry said.

In response to the indictment, a statement from Oil Refineries stressed that the submission for indictment was only made on Wednesday, although it referred to incidents that occurred more than two years ago during exceptionally rainy periods.

“The ORL [Oil Refineries Ltd.] group has begun a runoff separation project to reduce the phenomenon, costing tens of millions of shekels,” said Shlomi Basson, Oil Refineries’s vice president for environment, safety and security. “The project is being conducted in coordination and with the approval of the Environmental Protection Ministry.

The group is preparing for the winter and is providing reports in accordance with regulations.”

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