Fishermen at Jaffa Port affected by a 2009 sewage spill will be receiving NIS 1 million in compensation for their work loss, the Tel Aviv District Court announced on Wednesday.

The incident in question occurred on February 9, 2009, when a compromised sewage pipe led to the leakage of effluent in the city of Or Yehuda and the surrounding communities, the court explained.

For weeks, authorities ignored the leak and the damage caused to the environment, as each authority involved strived to place responsibility for the repair on each other. As a result of this negligence and quarreling, sewage flowed uninterrupted into the Ayalon River, the Yarkon River and onto the beaches of Tel Aviv and Herzliya, causing extensive contamination and closing down both cities’ beaches for more than two months, the court said.

As a result, two class action suits were submitted by those affected by the closure – one from a group of surfers and sailors from the region and another from the Jaffa Port fisherman’s association.

The respondents, in turn, rejected the allegations and denied that wastewater had been flowing into the rivers and sea, as well as the notion that anyone had suffered as a result of the hazard, the court said.

The judge, Michal Agmon- Gonen, suggested that the two parties reach a settlement by way of compromise, particularly due to the difficulty in establishing a division of responsibilities in this case, the court decision said.

Eventually, the sides reached a settlement agreement, and the judgment that followed gained approval based on Section 18 of the Class Action Law, the court added.

Regarding the surfers and sailors’ suit, local authorities will be required to invest in a scientific education program at a total cost of NIS 1.5m., which will aim to increase the awareness of maritime pollution.

The project will include three components – a comprehensive risk survey that reviews potential hazards of future contamination, the institutionalization of environmental education programs and an ecological survey of animals and plants inhabiting the beach, according to the court decision.

As far as the case of the fishermen goes, the authorities will pay a total of NIS 1m., to be divided among fishermen who present appropriate documentation.

Because the fishermen suffered from a loss of livelihood during the time period, they needed to receive direct financial compensation, Agmon-Gonen ruled.

Meanwhile, the environmental education program will benefit the entire public, she said.

“The fact is that there was a failure among these local authorities in handling environmental hazards, those generated by the authorities and by others,” Agmon- Gonen said.

“Authorities have almost no external incentive, whether negative or positive, encouraging them to act responsibly, to internalize the costs of environmental hazards within their jurisdictions and expedite their removal.”

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