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Group slams ministry over Haifa Chemicals ammonia license
By SHARON UDASIN
05/11/2012
The Zalul Environmental Association slams Environmental Protection Ministry’s Haifa District for granting Haifa Chemicals a poison permit for its ammonia tank.
 
The Zalul Environmental Association slammed the Environmental Protection Ministry’s Haifa District for granting Haifa Chemicals a poison permit for its ammonia tank through 2017, rather than the customary one-year permit.

“This is an outrageous decision, from which rises a strong smell of an election period and smells of unrelated interests,” the organization wrote in a letter on Sunday to Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan. “The decision stands in utter contradiction to the commitments of your office to bring the ammonia tank, which endangers the lives of Haifa residents, to a close by the end of 2015.”

Issuing a poisons permit that deviates from the allotted period by two full years indicates a relaxed attitude in the ministry toward the dangers of the tank and the urgency of its closure, according to Zalul. Meanwhile, this is occurring while the Haifa District Court is beginning a criminal investigation on the factory for operation without a proper business license, the organization said.

On March 1, the ministry had decided in cooperation with the Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry to order a transfer of the ammonia tank to a facility in the South by the end of 2015, according to Zalul.

Meanwhile, the ministries had dually promised to choose a contractor to establish the plant by the end of 2012, the group explained in the letter.

“Zalul demands that your office reconsider the validity of the poisons permit and stand with its public commitment to close the container by the end of 2015,” the organization said.

In response, the Environmental Protection Ministry said that “it is too bad that Zalul’s pursuit of a headline dizzies them and causes them to deny reality.”

“After years in which previous governments ignored the location of the container, the Environmental Protection and Industry, Trade and Labor ministries determined that the ammonia container will be evacuated from the place within five years more or less, or until the establishment of an ammonia production plant in the South – the earliest of the two,” the ministry said.

Contrary to Zalul’s claims, the poisons permit granted to Haifa Chemicals is only for one year, and it stipulates that the company must stop container operations within five years, according to the Environmental Protection Ministry.

Since the evacuation decision was made on March 1, 2012, this means the cessation of work should occur by the beginning of 2017, the ministry explained.

“If only people at Zalul had bothered to check the facts or read the material, they would realize this too,” the ministry said. “For the avoidance of doubt, the permit that was given to the ammonia container and to Haifa Chemicals is valid for the span of one year only, and we invite members of the organization to test this next year, when the granting of an additional permit will be considered, as in previous years.”
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