As beach season officially opens on Thursday, the environmental organization
Zalul released a new report charging that Israeli seaside industries are “paid
to pollute” rather than paying for their pollution.
In Zalul’s 50-page,
“State of the Sea 2013” report, the organization examines whether the sea
pollution tax imposed upon industries by the Environmental Protection Ministry
lives up to all of its goals, and whether the tax properly reflects the damage
that these companies cause to the marine environment.
The report’s main
conclusion is that the tax fails to reach two of its main objectives – the tax
is too low in comparison to the damages the industries inflict upon the sea, and
it provides little incentive for companies to curb their sewage
“We must update the tax, require external supervision and use
tax funds for hazard monitoring and rehabilitation,” a statement from Zalul
The report finds that the taxes on the oil refineries in Haifa –
the complex that pumps the largest amount of pollution into the sea – amount to
only about NIS 60,000 per year, or about NIS 4,000 per month. The Hod Hefer
slaughterhouse, which pumps brines containing both blood and fats into the sea
and is one of the nation’s largest slaughterhouses, pays only about NIS 4,000
annually, the report finds.
The report also takes a look at the Shafdan
sewage treatment facility, “the biggest polluter of the eastern
Zalul criticizes the firm – as well as government
officials – for allowing the Shafdan to be exempt from the taxes for the year
2012 while the company was developing new technologies to curb discharge
Each year, industrial plants, power plants, desalination
facilities, slaughterhouses and hospitals bring billions of cubic meters of
waste into the Mediterranean Sea through discharge permits provided by an
The taxes derived from these sources are
then transferred to a Marine Pollution Prevention Fund under the Environmental
Protection Ministry each quarter, amounting to approximately NIS 6 million per
year for use by the ministry’s marine and coastal division, the report
The marine and coastal division, however, spends only about NIS
2.5 million each year on its sea monitoring, checking and supervision tasks,
according to the report.
Zalul therefore argues in the report that a
number of changes should be made to heighten the effectiveness of the sea
First and foremost, the organization suggests a gradual
increase in the tax figures, so that the industries will seek out alternative
technologies that allow for discharge minimization, the report says.
additional tax funds received by the ministry could be used toward the
development of such technologies.
In addition, the organization
recommends that, before they can receive their permits, industrial sea polluters
be required to hire external consultants who will evaluate their discharge
practices and suggest alternatives.
Another similar option would be
establishing a unit within the ministry that focuses on technological
alternatives to sea discharge, the report adds.
A final recommendation
from Zalul is that the proceeds of the tax be used entirely for facilitating the
monitoring and restoration of marine ecosystem damage that has occurred over the
In response to the report, the Environmental Protection Ministry
said that Zalul did not check facts carefully enough before publishing the
While Zalul complains that the tax does not pay directly for
the development of more advanced technologies, in reality the Discharge Permit
Committee has adopted more stringent measures and only provides permits to firms
working with such technologies, the ministry said.
The exact amount of
the tax is the result of broad economic work, using parallel projections
throughout the world and based on the principle that firms discharging
contaminated sewage will pay more and those dumping purified wastewater will pay
little, the ministry noted. For example, a sewage treatment facility in Herzliya
pumps discharge into the sea that is suitable for irrigation, so this plant pays
relatively low surcharges.
The ministry also slammed Zalul for claiming
that industries around Israel are dumping billions of cubic meters worth of
sewage into the sea each year, when the majority of discharge is cooling water
from power plants that hardly contains any contaminants.
Shafdan specifically, the ministry stressed that as of April 20, the sewage
treatment plant will be paying taxes that are expected to reach NIS 15 million
to 18m. annually.
Regardless of the discharge situation, the country’s
seas, meanwhile, will officially open to bathers for the season on Thursday,
with 140 beaches welcoming visitors along the Mediterranean Sea, the Dead Sea,
the Red Sea and Lake Kinneret, the Interior Ministry announced on Wednesday.
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