Sea of Galilee 298.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Thousands of tons of pollutants were discharged into the sea in 2006, with the approval of regulators, according to the Zalul marine environment watch group.
Among the authorized pollutants in 2006 that Zalul identified were 130 tons of pesticides, five tons of arsenic, 15,000 tons of raw sewage, 1,300 tons of ammonia and more than a ton of cyanide.
Zalul's annual report on the country's coastline released this week focused on a survey the NGO conducted on the effects of authorized discharge of industrial pollutants and sewage into the rivers by factories and municipalities.
The interministerial permits committee on discharge of wastes to sea, under the supervision of Environmental Protection Minister Gideon Ezra, is responsible for issuing the permits. Zalul said it conducted the survey because the committee did not release its data.
"The reckless distribution of discharge permits has caused a real public health risk," according to the report. More than a 100 different bodies have discharge permits.
Zalul identified seven zones along the coast with a high public health risk: Nahariya, Acre Bay, Haifa Bay, Herzliya, Tel Aviv, Palmahim and Ashdod.
These areas are dangerous for bathing, and fish caught there may be toxic.
In Acre Bay, Zalul found substantial differences between the authorized levels of discharge and the actual levels of pollutants in the water. Nevertheless, no action was taken against the polluters.
The Zalul report also criticizes the committee for lack of transparency in its decision-making process, saying that all decisions on permits are made behind closed doors, without the public being able to review the panel's actions.
Zalul plans to initiate a public campaign against the interministerial permits committee.
An Environmental Protection Ministry representative said the Zalul report was full of half-truths and provided inaccurate and misleading information.