The Environmental Protection Ministry ordered the Eilat Ashkelon Pipeline Co. (EAPC) Thursday to cease their work in the Nahal Zin and surrounding nature reserve following last week's devastating jet-fuel oil spill after the ministry found that the company was not effectively carrying out the cleanup but rather exacerbating the environmental damage.

EAPC responded to the ministry's order, saying that fault lies with the digging contractor, which had failed to follow instructions from environmental authorities and had ruptured the pipeline in the course of its work, Israel Radio reported.

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The company said it began emergency work according to environmental guidlines immediately following the pipe rupture, called Israel's worst ever environmental disaster, which occurred when a tractor struck a portion of the Eilat-Ashkelon Pipeline during pipe rehabilitation work, causing over 1.5 million liters of jet fuel oil to leak into Nahal Zin and the surrounding Negev nature reserve.

While emergency crews were able to plug the outburst of oil after four or five hours, experts had said the complete cleanup of the area could take weeks.

EAPC was shuttled in to pump the remaining fuel puddles from the ground. Now, workers will have to transfer polluted soil to a nearby treatment center.

The fear, experts say, would be if the issue persists into the winter, when rains could carry pollution from the biggest environmental contamination to possibly hit the country's soil.


Sharon Udasin contributed to this report.

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