air pollution 298 ap.
(photo credit: AP [file])
Thirty out of 50 factories failed surprise air pollution inspections carried out by the Environmental Protection Ministry last year.
The ministry on Sunday released its report on the 377 inspections it conducted of 50 factories and 87 other installations in 2007; several of the facilities were visited more than once.
The ministry carried out 34 more inspections in 2007 than in 2006 and said it planned to do even more next year.
The polluting factories were fairly evenly distributed around the country. The ministry said most of the factories either fixed or agreed to fix their emissions problems after being confronted with the results of the spot examinations.
When the Clean Air Act goes into effect at the beginning of 2011, it will drastically improve the ministry's ability to prevent violations and enforce emissions standards, Environmental Protection Minister Gideon Ezra said in the report.
The ministry reported that the factories with the worst violations, with emissions over 1,000 times the allowed limit, fixed the problems by installing new filtering technology or other methods.
For example, the Vered Quarry installed a new asphalt machine after it exceeded the limit for microparticles by 2,239 percent. Microparticles can cause breathing difficulties and damage lungs. A follow-up inspection found that there were no irregularities in the quarry's emissions.
The report detailed several similar cases in factories all over the country.
Knesset Internal Affairs and Environment Committee chairman Ophir Paz-Pines (Labor) was incensed that the ministry came to so many agreements with the factories rather than throwing the book at them.
"We must adopt a stricter enforcement policy against polluters - to revoke business licenses, issue administrative-closure orders and file indictments against the executives," he said in a statement. "According to the report, these measures were not taken, even though they already exist legally."
Paz-Pines said the ministry's enforcement bureau was chronically understaffed, with just 50 inspectors for the entire country.
The Israel Union for Environmental Defense (IUED), which was instrumental in crafting the Clean Air Act, also derided the factories for a callous attitude toward pollution and called on the government to budget the necessary funds for serious enforcement.
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