'Haifa Bay environment association negligent'
State comptroller finds area of half-million people ‘has hazardous materials in air, water, land and sea.’
Haifa Chemicals Photo: Ariel Jerozolimski
The Haifa Bay Municipal Association for Environmental Protection has done an
insufficient job in managing a region that is filled with explosive, flammable
and radioactive toxins, State Comptroller Joseph Shapira argued in a report
One section in an overall report examining the affairs
of various municipalities took a close look at the conduct of the Haifa Bay
Municipal Association for Environmental Protection. Established in 1983, the
association serves more than half a million people in nine local authorities:
Haifa, Kiryat Ata, Kiryat Yam, Kiryat Bialik, Kiryat Motzkin, Nesher, Kiryat
Tivon, Zvulun Regional Council and the Rahasim Local Council.
association is responsible for overseeing air quality control and monitoring,
hazardous materials supervision, noise prevention, environmental planning,
industrial control, radiation monitoring, transportation pollution and
“Because of the operations of the factories,
the area suffers from problems of concentrated contaminants, including hazardous
materials in the air, in the water, on the land and in the sea, as well as
problems of non-ionizing radiation, noise nuisances and the effects of dense
transportation,” the report said. “This pollution is likely to have a
detrimental effect on the health of residents of the area and of all areas of
In the months of September 2011 through February 2012, the
State Comptroller’s Office audited the association, examining issues like
supervision of hazardous materials management, improvement of air quality,
reduction of air pollution from cars, prevention of noise and local law
enforcement. The office worked to fulfill the audit in conjunction with the
Environmental Protection Ministry, the Interior Ministry and the company Yefe
Nof Transportation, Infrastructure and Construction.
comptroller found in the audit that several decades after its establishment, the
association still has yet to clearly define its functions and powers. In
addition, the association has failed to maintain a complete and current listing
of all public inquiries it has received.
Likewise, the report found that
the Environmental Protection Ministry was also failing to live up to its
requirements in the region. For example, the Clean Air Law of 2008 went into
effect in January 2011, making the ministry responsible for preventing air
pollution – setting emission standards, monitoring pollution and providing
reinforcement against harmful incidents.
Minister Gilad Erdan, however, rejected a decision to declare areas within the
association’s jurisdiction as areas affected by air pollution, and the audit
concluded before the government approved a widespread national plan for the
reduction of air pollution, the state comptroller wrote.
As far as motor
vehicle air pollution goes, Shapira determined that this is the source of up to
58 percent of the region’s air pollution. The Haifa Bay Municipal Association
for Environmental Protection, however, has neither promoted advanced mobile air
pollution monitoring nor submitted a proposal for cooperative air monitoring and
enforcement activity to the Environmental Protection Ministry.
although a future Metronit bus rapid transit system will reduce congestion and
save travel time, the vehicles driving in these lanes will still be running on
diesel engines, which emit hazardous particles into the air, Shapira
In addition to the air pollution issues, the report has found the
presence of hazardous materials in the Haifa Bay region to be particularly
problematic. Regarding the factories in the region specifically, the report
noted that the association has not yet set rules for the frequency of site
reviews that the facilities must undergo, to examine the pollutants stored their
as well as their risk levels.
Likewise, the Environmental Protection
Ministry failed to prepare a schedule for regular visits in the years 2009 and
2010, did not receive periodic reports on the factories and did not prepare
guidelines as to how the association should handle them, the report
The region contains about 120 factories that require toxin
permits and whose chemicals carry a high degree of risk.
comptroller specifically looked at a hydrocracking facility, in which the
hydrocarbon molecules of heavy petroleum are cracked and broken into simpler,
lighter fuels. While for the years 2010 to 2011, the local planning and building
committee approved six building permits for the facility, the association never
discussed the environmental effects of the hydrocracking to occur there,
according to the report.
Particularly distressing to Shapira was the
management of ammonia – a toxic and volatile gas that is vital to industry – at
Haifa Chemicals. The Haifa Bay storage tank contained 12,000 tons of ammonia,
used in more than 100 plants there without a proper business license. Although
the storage container had been active for 26 years, by the time of the audit
necessary measures had not been taken to prevent the public from danger, the
report said, recommending a transfer of the tank to a less populated
Stressing that the office had found significant deficiencies in
the operations of the Haifa Bay Municipal Association for Environmental
Protection, the state comptroller emphasized that the organization must
immediately clarify its specific responsibilities and functions. In addition,
better coordination must occur among the association and the Environmental
Protection Ministry, the local authorities, the area’s companies and the
Interior Ministry, the report explained. In turn, it is the Environmental
Protection Ministry’s responsibility to see that the association fulfills its
In response to the report, the association said that most of the
state comptroller’s notes have already been implemented since the
“Although in the report, there are several points that have no
direct relation to association activity, we intend to continue to examine the
entire report, in depth, and implement the necessary measures – while striving
constantly to improve the manner and quality of our service to the public,” the
association said in a statement.
“The association’s conduct in
cooperation with the Environmental Protection Ministry has led to impressive
achievements in reducing pollutant emissions and improving air quality in the
region,” the statement continued, noting that the association will ensure the
transfer of all required reports to the ministry, in a transparent
Emphasizing its goal of protecting the environment from hazards,
the association said that for decades it has been working to reduce air
pollution, noise, radiation and other hazards in the region.
part, the Environmental Protection Ministry responded that the body responsible
for defining the roles of municipal associations is the Interior Ministry, and
that the Environment Ministry has no authority over the association.
the last two years, however, the Environment Ministry has implemented a
multi-year monitoring program for large plants in Haifa Bay, and at the
ministry’s request, the association is now preparing a municipal program for air
pollution reduction, the ministry said.
Regarding the Haifa ammonia
storage tank, the Environmental Protection Ministry said the ministry demanded
the installation of overhead protection on the tank, but that the Home Front
Command deemed this type of shielding unnecessary.
Meanwhile, following a
decision collaboratively made by Erdan and Industry, Trade and Labor Minister
Shalom Simhon, Haifa Chemicals announced that the ammonia container would be
shut down within five years and transferred to a location in the South.
Environmental impact studies for a new plant location will be forthcoming, the
Maya Jacobs, director of the environmental association
Zalul, criticized both Erdan and Simhon for failing to anchor their words in a
government decision. The ammonia container must be closed as quickly as
possible, she stressed.
“It is time that the government ministries hear
harsh criticism and do what is required of them – enable the construction of an
ammonia production plant in the South, make unnecessary the import of ammonia by
ships and close a container that is dangerous and terrifying to the residents of
northern Israel,” Jacobs said.