POLLUTING SMOKE rises yesterday from a Haifa refinery. (Alex Rozkovsky/Maariv).
(photo credit: ALEX COLBY)
Describing the 12,000-ton ammonia tank in their midst as a “mortal danger” to Haifa Bay residents, eight mayors from the northern metropolitan region are demanding that the government advance plans to move it to the Negev.
Their pleas follow an Environmental Protection Ministry announcement on Monday that the tendering process to transfer the ammonia tank to a less populated location, Mishor Rotem in the Negev Desert, had failed. Long seen as a security risk by Israeli environmental activists and politicians alike, the ammonia container received international attention when Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah threatened to attack it in February.
“The continued import of ammonia in a giant tank and the continued existence of the container in the Haifa Bay is a mortal danger to the lives of residents, a danger to the industrial area that is important to the state, a danger to the Haifa Port and a true danger of public and private property damage,” the mayors wrote on Wednesday in a letter addressed to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
In March 2012, the government decided that the Haifa Bay tank must close and be relocated to an unpopulated area of the Negev by 2017. In 2013, officials determined that the new plant housing the tank would be established in Mishor Rotem, and eventually launched a tendering procedure.
On Monday afternoon, however, the Environmental Protection Ministry announced that the office had not received any bids in response to the tender.
Stressing that he would not accept the status quo, Environmental Protection Minister Ze’ev Elkin said that afternoon that he would do everything in his power to see the tank’s removal as the government discusses alternatives.
With the support of environmental organization Zalul, the mayors of Haifa, Kiryat Bialik, Kiryat Motzkin, Kiryat Yam, Kiryat Tivon, Zvulun, Nesher and Kiryat Ata, sent their letter to the prime minister, hoping that the country’s leader might intervene in expediting the transfer of the container southward.
“The container is not protected, it is exposed to earthquakes and missile attacks and serves as a strategic goal for Hezbollah,” they wrote. “We request your immediate intervention in closing the dangerous container and thereby preventing an impending disaster.”
Zalul, which has been fighting for years for the container’s closure, likewise stressed the importance of “removing the threat hovering over the lives of residents of the North.” The organization demanded that the prime minister take responsibility for the removal and oversee the shutdown as soon as possible.