Ezra calls for probe of Eilat sewage spill

Beaches reopened after overload of sewage system leads to an explosion in a main pipe.

September 30, 2007 08:40
2 minute read.
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eilat tourism 224.88. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski/The Jerusalem Post [file])


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Environmental Protection Minister Gideon Ezra has requested that police launch a criminal investigation against the officials responsible for the sewage leak that rendered Eilat's beaches desolate over the weekend. Ezra plans to visit Eilat on Monday to evaluate in person the reasons for the leak, which required all beaches at the country's largest local and foreign tourist destination to shut down over the weekend. The Zalul Environmental Association filed an official complaint with the Tel Aviv Police on Sunday against Hen Salti - head of Eilat's water and sewage corporation, Ein Netafim - and against Eilat Mayor Meir Yitzhak Halevi. Zalul named the two responsible for neglecting Eilat's sewage infrastructure and for not implementing the necessary emergency procedures. Almost 48 hours after hundreds of cubic meters of raw sewage poured into the Gulf of Eilat, the Interior Ministry ordered the reopening of all Eilat's beaches to the public on Sunday afternoon, after tests found the water safe. The latest incident, which aroused the anger and disappointment of thousands of vacationers, has also caused concern at Eilat's Dolphin Reef, where workers are worried for the dolphins' health. "Our dolphins and the dolphins that swim in the open sea cannot escape from the dirty water like we did. They have to deal with the hazards the sewage has caused, with the oil, the polluted water and the phosphates that are being poured into the seawater by the boats at the port next to us," Maya Zilber, who is in charge of the dolphins at the reef, said Sunday. "Each problem alone can be handled, but there are too many of them and too often. The main problem is the way the municipality protects the sea, its main natural resource. If there weren't thousands of angry tourists in Eilat at this time of the year raising their voices because of the money they paid to come here, no one would have known about it, and the sea and its living creatures would have kept silent again," said Zilber. Zilber added that two of the reef's nine dolphins were in the process of weaning, and therefore their immune systems were more likely to suffer as a result of the latest sewage spill. On Saturday, Halevi said the city's sewage system had undergone a number of repairs and upgrades recently. "We have worked to prevent these sorts of incidents, and we upgraded 13 pumping stations," Halevi told Ynet. "The entire sewage system has been under repair over the last year by the Ein Netafim Corporation. I see the sea as Eilat's main resource, and in this spirit we shall act. The corporation must first handle the burning issues. We haven't suffered from sewage leaking into the sea in the past year, unlike in previous years. Once the corporation takes the sewage delivery line in hand, these incidents won't occur." Ein Netafim said in a statement that about 500 square meters of sewage spilled into the sea when a main pipe in the system burst. The Interior Ministry decided to close Eilat's beaches following a recommendation by the Environmental Protection Ministry. Experts estimated the sewage had polluted all of the beaches and could pose a public health risk. The unexpected shutdown did not lead to a massive decrease in the number of tourists in Eilat, nor was it expected to bring down the number of Israelis crossing the border to the Sinai Peninsula's beaches. "Up to 50,000 people will cross Israel's border with Egypt in Taba by the end of the 10-day vacation period, as the original estimates predicted," said Taba terminal manager Yitzhak Hai.

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