What's in our drinking water?

Every month building waste from central Israel is dumped next to the mountain aquifer in the West Bank. Since this is the country's largest reserve of groundwater and supplies almost one-third of our drinking water needs,the consequences could be dire

judea trash 88 224 (photo credit: Courtesy)
judea trash 88 224
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Drinking water in the Sharon and Gush Dan areas is in danger of being irreversibly polluted by construction site waste illegally dumped near Alfei Menashe just over the Green Line, according to the Hebrew weekly Yediot Hasharon (formerly known as Al Hasharon). The head of the Judea and Samaria Towns Association for Environmental Quality, Yitzhak Meir, warns that dozens of trucks are arriving every month with building waste from central Israel and dumping them at the site, which is next to the mountain aquifer that contains the largest reserve of groundwater in Israel and supplies almost one-third of the country's drinking water needs. "Judea and Samaria have turned into the backyard for waste in Israel. All the sites that are sending garbage are creating an irreversible process that ultimately is likely to harm the drinking water of a large number of Israeli citizens," Meir said. According to the report, recent months have witnessed dozens of trucks arriving at Re'em A-Tireh, an Arab village near Alfei Menashe, and dumping huge quantities of building waste there. Because the area is under the control of Israeli security forces, the truck drivers do not have to pass through any checkpoints. Meir, a former employee of the Ministry for Environmental Protection and of the Nature and Parks Authority, said the latest dumping was just one of many similar examples of environmental and ecological damage in the West Bank. He said that since 1996, 386 pirate dump sites have been found in Judea and Samaria, a number that is still growing. He recommended that a war on polluters be declared immediately, saying it will eventually cost much more to treat polluted water supplies. The mountain aquifer, located under the Judea and Samaria mountain ridge on the Green Line, is currently considered to be of high quality. But according to Professor Haim Gvirtzman, a water specialist from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, because the aquifer is surrounded by layers of porous rock, it is vulnerable to seeping pollutants. He said the aquifer supplies 600 million cubic meters of water - or one-third of Israel's drinking water - supplying the needs of most cities in central Israel, from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem to Beersheba. Gvirtzman said the latest dump at Re'em A-Tireh is adding to existing pollution from other dumps in the Green Line area. "In the mountain aquifer pollution can spread quickly and penetrate the groundwater," he explained. A Ministry for Environmental Protection spokesperson said there is no legal dump in the Alfei Menashe area, adding that responsibility for creating the waste lies with the builders, while responsibility for Israel's drinking water rests with the Health Ministry, and responsibility for groundwater pollution in Judea and Samaria rests with the Israel Defense Forces and the local authorities. The head of the Alfei Menashe council, Eliezer Hisdai, said it seemed the financial crisis among the Palestinians was leading them to co-operate with the illegal dumpers in return for payment. He said that although six trucks had been stopped by police recently on their way to the dump site, this was only a "tiny portion" of the dozens of trucks continuing to arrive there. He said the various authorities had to come up with a concerted plan to deal with the dumpers, including creating roadblocks, fining the owners of the lands being used as dump sites, and enlisting the help of Palestinian police.