Beit Hazikuk in Haifa is the country’s largest oil refinery..
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Emphasizing the urgency of curbing pollution levels in the Haifa Bay region, MK Dov Henin presented critical findings to Internal Affairs and Environment Committee members on Wednesday.
“The high incidence in the Haifa Bay requires swift action to reduce pollution,” Henin (Hadash) told committee members.
Henin was presenting the conclusions of the subcommittee to investigate Haifa Bay environmental and planning issues, formed by Internal Affairs Committee chairwoman MK Miri Regev (Likud) on March 19. The subcommittee, which also included MKs Tamar Zandberg (Meretz), Hamed Amer (Yisrael Beytenu) and David Azoulay (Shas) was tasked with generating a recommendation regarding the region’s problematic pollution levels.
The subcommittee’s report focused on three elements of the Haifa Bay in particular: Haifa Bay pollution, hazardous materials and construction of a new port in the city.
Regarding pollution, the report cited Health Ministry data suggesting a higher incidence of cancer rates in the Haifa and Acre areas, in comparison to the rest of the country – 15 percent and 16% higher in men and 15% and 11% higher in women, respectively. The data found that asthma in children was twice as prevalent than in the rest of the country.
The report cited Environmental Protection Ministry data, which indicated high levels of pollution emanating from Haifa Bay factories.
Emissions of volatile organic compounds from Haifa plants amount to 2,400 tons per year, in comparison to the 111 tons per year in Ramat Hovav, the report said. Emissions into the Kishon River from the factories reach about 83,000 tons annually, in comparison to the 20,100 tons yearly in the rest of the country’s rivers.
Subcommittee members stressed that all of this worrisome data must be incorporated in the formulation of planning policies for the bay region, which must abide by precautionary principles.
As far as hazardous materials are concerned, they found that between 2011 and 2013 many such events occurred. They recommended launching a comprehensive study of hazardous material concentrations in the region as well as an evaluation of their proximity to population centers.
With regards to plans for constructing a new port in the region, they suggested further examination of the plans, with a focus on the possibility of expanding the current port rather than establishing an additional one.
Tasking the subcommittee with transforming their recommendations into a work plan, Regev stressed, “It is our collective goal to continue to bring youth to Haifa, but we must care for their health.”