(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan announced during the Knesset
plenum on Wednesday that his office was revoking the toxics license for the
Haifa Chemicals plant due to “severe deficiencies in the maintenance facilities
and storage of hazardous materials,” the ministry announced later that
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In addition to revoking the license itself, the ministry also issued
the company a court order to evacuate the hazardous substances, as is dictated
by the Hazardous Substances Law. The decision to make these orders was
determined following a July 10 tour of the facility led by the ministry’s Haifa
district manager, Shlomo Katz, during which officials determined that the
company was violating both their permit conditions and the law with regards to
storage of toxins, prevention of toxic emissions to the environment, waste
treatment, hazardous materials and other issues, according to the ministry
statement. The plant will not be allowed to resume operations until a
comprehensive safety review has indicated that all of the problems have been
“We have a responsibility to ensure that the level
of plant maintenance is not undermined and that safety deficiencies that will
hurt the environment, factory workers and unprotected area residents,” Erdan
said in the statement.
The ministry officials decided to inspect the
plant after a 70-day workers’ strike had caused most plant operations, including
facility maintenance, to cease, the ministry said. According to the order issued
to the company, Haifa Chemicals must evacuate 1,000 tons worth of hazardous
chemicals within 14 days, including ammonia, nitric acid, phosphoric acid,
organic solvents and others.
Following the removal, as part of the review
process, the company must hire an external firm to conduct risk analysis and
appraise system malfunctions, only after which will the Environment Ministry
determine the next steps of action required, prior to reinstallation of the
toxics permit, the statement said.
MK Dov Henin (Hadash), chairman of the
Knesset’s Environment and Health Committee, welcomed what he called a “dramatic
announcement” and praised the ministry’s decision.
decision of the Environmental Protection Ministry’s Haifa district manager, Mr.
Shlomo Katz, is the proper response to the Environment and Health Committee’s
demands, which spoke of a difficult and disturbing picture of environmental and
safety risks that existed in the factory due to the strike that persists there,”
Henin said in a statement.
“We called upon the ministry, immediately
after discovering this alarming picture, to exercise its authority and revoke
the toxics permit from the plant. The result from today’s decision will be that
the health and life of residents in the region and factory workers are not
Representatives from the Green Movement and the Coalition for
Public Health also lauded the Environmental Protection Ministry’s actions,
declaring in a joint statement: “We hope that the order is fully implemented and
enforced for the benefit and safety of the Haifa Bay area residents. We continue
to call upon the ministry to enforce its authority on other factories and check
the safety protocols in all existing stockpiles of hazardous materials in the
Haifa Chemicals CEO Nadav Shachar could not be reached for comment
by the time of publication.