(photo credit: ARIEL COHEN)
More coordination among authorities and access to government weather forecasts are critical to maintaining cleaner beaches in the winter season, Meretz MK Tamar Zandberg said on Tuesday.
Zandberg, who chairs the Internal Affairs and Environment Committee’s subcommittee on beaches, was speaking during a discussion regarding contamination of such areas – particularly following the first rains of the season. Arguing that it is possible to prevent the beach pollution ahead of time by implementing drainage plans, she stressed that the responsibilities of local authorities and water corporations must be clarified.
“The seashore is a resource that should be sustainable even in the winter,” she said.
“If we do not maintain it in the winter, there will be nowhere to swim in the summer. The first rain comes each year, and the Environmental Protection and Health ministries must warn the public.”
Particularly problematic beaches following this year’s first rain were those of Netanya and Tel Aviv, according to Zafrir Gidron, a representative of the environmental organization Zalul.
“This time, the Health Ministry did not warn the public, and we saw members of the public entering the polluted water,” Gidron said.
Zalul CEO Maya Jacobs attributed this oversight to a lack of coordination among the various government authorities, arguing that there must be a warning to the public every time the season’s first rain is expected.
In response, the Health Ministry’s public health administrator, Valerie Pohoryles, said that “there is a set procedure in pouring rain to disqualify beaches for swimming, and the public is made aware within a half hour.”
This year’s first rain, however, was a surprise, she continued, and there was no warning as a result.
“There were no other such events that weren’t reported,” she said.
In Haifa, the municipality’s deputy director, Amnon Leibowitz, said that his city had been forbidden to receive free forecasts from the Israel Meteorological Service since 2011.
To prepare for rains and other inclement weather, his city must pay NIS 750 every month to receive forecasts from a private company, he explained.
Zandberg called this particular detail a “severe failure,” expressing disbelief that local authorities could not receive such information from the government weather service.
Rani Amir, head of the Environmental Protection Ministry’s marine and coastal division, explained that the local authorities were responsible for cleaning the drainage systems leading to the oceans so as to minimize the mess. In addition, the towns must build “summer water pools” at the drainage openings, in order to accumulate the polluted water before it can reach the beach, Amir said.
“The ministry has no authority by law to require that towns and government ministries install such pools,” he added, noting that a survey of 158 drainage systems revealed pools at only a third of them.
Because the accumulation of waste in the country’s drainage systems throughout the summer is not preventable, it is impossible to wash them entirely without wasting water, argued Hezi Bilik, head of the Water Authority’s contamination prevention department. As such, he said, summer collection pools constitute only a partial solution.
“Israel is very advanced on the subject of enriched building of groundwater systems, but this began in the last decade, and the problem is the construction that came before,” he added.