The Environmental Protection Ministry ordered the Eilat- Ashkelon Pipeline Company to cease all operations on the oil pipeline at Nahal Zin – into which 1.5 million liters of oil gushed last Wednesday – until a new emergency plan is approved by the ministry’s southern district to make up for the company’s cleanup negligence, the ministry announced on Thursday morning.

The order was delivered in a letter to the company dated July 4, sent from Environment Ministry Southern District Manager, Guy Samet, to EAPC Director-General Yair Vida and instructing work on the line to stop for the time being.

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While rehabilitating the pipeline last Wednesday, a tractor struck a portion of it, causing heavy fuel oil to spurt into the northern Negev Nahal Zin and the surrounding nature reserve. At the time of the incident, Samet told The Jerusalem Post that this was “one of the largest soil contaminations to occur in the last year in Israel,” and would require a huge amount of work to repair.

“This spill caused great environmental damage to the nature reserve,” the letter states.

As per a clause in water regulations established in 2006, operators are required to deal with oil extractions, shutting down valves, fixing oil pipelines, excavating polluted sediment and treating contaminated water on their sites.

However, during the time of this incident, the EAPC was not performing these requirements sufficiently, the letter states.

“Accordingly, we are requiring the company to stop its works on the pipeline until the preparation of an emergency plan that is approved by the southern district,” it concludes, noting that only then can the rehabilitation operations continue.

In response to the Environment Ministry’s letter, the EAPC emphasized the fact that it was not responsible for the damage in the first place.

“It is worth mentioning that it wasn’t the EAPC that hit the pipeline,” an EAPC spokeswoman said. “However, immediately following the incident, EAPC worked to restore the area to its original conditions.

As always, EAPC operates according to Environmental Protection Ministry guidelines.

It is the intention of the EAP to claim a refund for all expenses from the body responsible for damaging the pipeline.”

Green Movement Co-Chairman Prof. Alon Tal of Ben- Gurion University said that the event was a testament to the problematic administration of Israel’s big infrastructural bodies in general.

“It’s not just EAPC,” he told the Post on Thursday afternoon.

“There is an insouciance with which Israel’s large infrastructural institutions address the most sensitive and valuable natural resources in our country, which is intolerable.

“[There is] a sense of entitlement and obtuse disregard for the holiness of the holy land,” Tal continued. “Rather than looking at this as a sacred duty to nurture and protect the jewels of our collective national grounds, there is a crass sense of entitlement and aggressiveness in the crafting of both infrastructures and the solutions for cleanup, which have to change.”

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