Firefighters use water to dilute ammonia leaking from a chemical plant.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The Environmental Protection Ministry on Wednesday provided an update on the plan to relocate Haifa’s 17,000-ton ammonia production and storage facility.
Director-general Yisrael Dancziger, speaking in the northern city, said the ministry is in the final stages of accepting bids on the tender to build a replacement ammonia production facility in Mishor Rotem, which lies in a stretch of the desert between Dimona and the southern Dead Sea.
Within two months, he said, bidding will end and by the end of August, the developer of the plant will be announced. By the end of 2016 or early 2017, the chosen developer will be able to begin construction on the facility, Dancziger said. Construction is expected to take about three years, likely finishing by 2020.
The original state order, in 2012, instructed the ministry to close the Haifa facility and build a new plant in the Negev by 2017.
Much criticism surrounds the existing plant. It has been blamed along with other Haifa Bay factories for pollution that may have caused local babies to be born with heads 20 to 30 percent smaller than average, according to preliminary results of a University of Haifa study.
Fears spiked even more in February when Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah threatened to target the site with rockets and cause mass destruction in the region.
During Wednesday’s meeting, Dancziger also said that the developer chosen to build the plant in Mishor Rotem will receive a NIS 220 million grant, as well as an additional NIS 480m. “in the extreme case that the facility would close” due to a security incident or a delay in the natural gas supply that would power the plant.
The ministry emphasized later on in a statement that the Mishor Rotem plant will be used to produce ammonia, not to store it. Storage will remain in Haifa until a solution is found. The new plant, it said, will “provide for domestic [ammonia] demand,” which it said amounts to 120,000 tons per year.