polluted stream 311.
(photo credit: Zalul)
The long-standing failure of Israel Military Industries (IMI) and Israel
Aerospace Industries (IAI) to rehabilitate areas polluted by their factory
contaminants poses a public health hazard that must be rectified immediately,
State Comptroller Joseph Shapira declared in his latest report issued on
The State Comptroller’s Office reviewed the behavior of IMI –
a government company that operates as the military and industrial support unit
of the Defense Ministry – intermittently from November 2011 through July 2012,
examining the firm’s failure to evacuate and clean up its long abandoned Haifa
In addition, the audit evaluated IMI’s mismanagement of the
perchlorate pollution flowing from the company’s Givon plant toward Rehovot, as
well as the Environmental Protection Ministry and Water Authority’s failure to
curb this situation. From March to July 2012, the state comptroller also
analyzed IAI operational units that have been contaminating Ben-Gurion Airport
An IMI military vehicle production site in Haifa
closed down in the early 2000s, leaving the site rife with environmental
hazards, according to the state comptroller.
By the time of the audit’s
completion in July 2012, the firm still had not budgeted a plan for the site’s
evacuation and decontamination, despite an IMI board of directors decision from
Stressing that this situation constitutes an “environmental
hazard,” the state comptroller concluded that it is “vital that IMI and the
Defense Ministry will work – each in its area of responsibility – without
additional delay toward the decontamination.”
Further south, at its Givon
plant near Ramle, IMI has been facing other serious problems since at least the
summer of 2005. At that time, the Water Authority detected the presence of
perchlorate – a toxic salt that frequently contaminates public water systems
around the world – in water wells used for irrigation in the hills west of the
factory, according to the state comptroller.
The rate of contamination
spread was very rapid, with the toxin flowing from Givon toward the
drinking-water production wells in eastern Rehovot.
is the fact that the contaminated water is being used to irrigate orange trees
in the area, and the state comptroller warned that farmers must immediately
cease using this water.
By the end of the audit in July 2012, the Water
Authority had not finished its pollution identification and demarcation efforts,
and therefore has been unable to provide a risk assessment or plan for
curtailing the spread, the audit said.
Meanwhile, despite the fact that
the Environmental Protection Ministry received information about the groundwater
contamination originating from Givon, the office did take part in the case until
January 2011, the report added.
Warning that the situation presents a
“danger to public health, damage to natural water sources that are scarce” and
will require expensive rehabilitation, the state comptroller demanded that
“every institution associated with the pollution caused to the land by IMI must
act immediately to prevent the continued spread of contamination.”
response to the state comptroller’s recommendations, a statement from IMI said
that the company is “working on the issue of the environment, according to the
most stringent of standards customary of security companies in the Western
The Environmental Protection Ministry said that the Water
Authority is leading the treatment effort, and that the ministry has contacted
the authority many times to accelerate the effort.
As the institution
that discovered the Givon infection, the Water Authority stressed that it is
“the only regulatory body acting to identify sources of pollution, conduct risk
assessments and perform detailed groundwater investigations toward preparing and
implementing rehabilitation plans.”
Because for decades various factories
have been polluting the environment and groundwater all over Israel, treatment
of the contaminants takes a long time and requires large budgets that are not
always readily available, the authority said.
In addition to the focus on
the pollution caused by IMI, the IAI company likewise came under fire in the
state comptroller’s report for failing to properly restrain contaminants from
flowing out of its own systems and causing damage to the Ben-Gurion Airport
wastewater treatment facility.
Deviating from the mandated quality
standards for wastewater constitutes a violation of the business licenses
granted by the Interior Ministry’s licensing authority, the audit
Only in early 2011 did the Environmental Protection Ministry
demand that IAI perform a comprehensive historical land survey, the state
comptroller said. Although IAI completed and submitted the survey to the
ministry in June 2011, by the end of the audit in July 2012, the ministry had
yet to finish its evaluations, according to the report. It is therefore
impossible to quantify the extent of the soil and groundwater contamination and
the accompanying environmental implications, the state comptroller explained.
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