kid drinking water 298.8.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
"The quality of drinking water in Israel is unsatisfactory. I cannot wholeheartedly recommend to the public to freely drink tap water," MK Ophir Paz-Pines cautioned in a Knesset discussion Tuesday.
Pines slammed the Health Ministry for its inactivity over the past seven months, in disregard of recommendations made by the Adin Committee for updating drinking water regulations.
Prof. Avner Adin, head of the eponymous Adin Committee, blamed several deaths over the past few years on consumption of bad drinking water.
Each year, there are approximately 400 cases of contamination in sources of drinking water across the country. Factories, gas stations and cow sheds are the most frequent culprits of the pollution. Last year alone there were 65 indictments against water contaminators, and the Environment Ministry collected NIS 4.5 million in fines.
And while improvement of tap water quality is just in the discussion phase, Dr. Aaron Dotan, water specialist for the Israel Union for Environmental Defense (Adam Teva V'Din), said he had reservations about the opinions expressed in the meeting Tuesday morning.
"Ophir Pines insists that the water is bad and that he cannot recommend that the public drink tap water. I think that's not exactly the situation. The drinking water, from a health point of view, is okay," Dotan told The Jerusalem Post.
Dotan said the chief problem with Israeli tap water is the nitrate levels permitted under the Health Ministry's regulations: "The Israeli standard is much more permissive than the EPA, WHO or EU standards," he said.
Nitrate, which is a pollutant that comes from fertilizer seeping into the water supply, poses a particular threat to small children; it can block the transfer of oxygen in the blood and cause breathing problems or Blue Baby Syndrome.
Dotan said nitrate posed a minimal risk to adults.
Dotan fears that Pines's comments will cause the public to switch to drinking more bottled water, which, he said, was not a solution.
"From an environmental point of view, bottled water is not a good thing. Tap water may be a better option - if, of course, the public can have confidence in it."
Dotan said the damage to the environment cause by massive consumption of bottled water was mainly due to the transport and bottling of the water. Worse yet are companies such as Ein Gedi that take "precious water from the natural environment and deprive wildlife and plants from using that water," said Dotan. "The Ein Gedi reserve is impoverished because of Ein Gedi water."
Tap water also remains unpopular because of its taste, he said. "My wife insists on drinking bottled water," Dotan said, "the taste is not acceptable in many places. I'm sure that in Jerusalem, you don't enjoy drinking tap water."
To implement the Adin Committee's recommendations would cost hundreds of millions of dollars, Dotan said. "[But] the option of doing nothing is not an option."