Dutch pollution experts introduce Israelis to clean tech

"Israel must emulate European model in monitoring air quality," is message at Netherlands’ embassy in Tel Aviv.

pollution 298 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
pollution 298
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Dutch air quality experts spoke about their air pollution technologies and encouraged Israel to implement its new Clean Air Act at a conference organized by the Dutch embassy in Tel Aviv on Tuesday morning.
Participants in “Clean Air – New Technologies and Approaches from the Netherlands” – the sixth conference of its kind – addressed the needs of the entire globe to breathe cleaner air because “in the past few years that has become increasingly difficult,” said Maxime Verhagen, Dutch vice prime minister and minister of Economic Affairs, Agriculture and Innovation.
For its part, Israel is in the process of implementing the Clean Air Act that came into effect in January, and the country has taken “truly a leap forward,” albeit with much to learn from its partners in Europe, according to Liad Ortar of Beyond Business, who moderated the conference.
“Israel is at the tipping point in relation with dealing with air pollution,” Ortar said, stressing the importance of setting higher demands on industry and government ministries in terms of transparency in monitoring air quality.
While establishing the new act was critical to Israel’s environmental advancement, the Dutch leaders emphasized that this is but a first step in a long-term process.
“Ensuring that the air we breathe is clean requires more than just regulation. It requires strategic vision, forward thinking and the kind of innovative solutions that only can be found by private and public sector corporations,” Verhagen said.
“We are two countries with many things in common and can mutually benefit from intensified cooperation on many levels,” he said.
Verhagen also applauded Israel’s contribution to sustainability in the Netherlands and announced that 2012 will see “the introduction of electric vehicles with Better Place technology” in his country, something he sees as “a huge step in improving air quality.”
Keesjan Valk, a senior air quality consultant at Dutch firm Witteveen+Bos spoke about how his firm helps companies around the world acquire emissions permits – which will be required in the new Israeli law.
“The Dutch practices are very comparable to the requirements in your new clean air law,” Valk said.
The requirements for emissions permits include, among other things, dispersion calculations, air quality and emission surveys, emission control and abatement techniques, monitoring carbon dioxide and nitrous oxides, and odor investigations – Valk’s area of expertise, he explained.
“It’s a big problem in a crowded country like the Netherlands, but I see also that your country is crowded, especially this area,” Valk said.
Equally important to taking the measurements is the frequency at which they are assessed – measurements must occur continuously and be examined in increments, rather than on average, according to Michael Rijpkema of Synspec BV.
“We want to know exactly what is in the measurements every 15 minutes, every hour. If you average it you don’t see the spikes,” Rijpkema said. “For example, in Tel Aviv, the traffic is standing still and is condensed between 8 and 9 a.m., and then due to the sea breeze, it is blown away again. You really need to measure it when it occurs.”
It is equally important to get results immediately, and not two weeks after a huge chemical spill, for example, he added.
Rijpkema’s firm supplies a device to European Union countries called Synspech Spectras, which is a “multi component analyzer”– meaning it tracks organic components in the air and is able to measure materials that are in very low, but “dangerous,” concentrations, he explained.
Constantly monitoring these pollutants at such low levels can prevent dangerous consequences to people’s health – during activities as simple as jogging next to a highway.
“That’s probably not so good for your lungs and your health in general,” Rijpkema said.
Barry Levenfeld, chairman of the board at Israeli environmental activist group Adam Teva V’Din, expressed the organization’s commitment to making sure “the Clean Air Law will not remain a footnote in the law books,” as “the clean air act is one of the biggest achievements for Israel’s environment in the last decade.
“We know how to begin the arduous task of implementing and enforcing the new law,” said Levenfeld, who is also a partner in the law firm, Yigal Arnon & Co. “We at Adam Teva v’Din always look to our European partners, who are years ahead of us.”
Asher Grinbaum, chairman of the Chemical, Pharmaceutical & Environmental Society in the Manufacturers Association in Israel, echoed Levenfeld’s sentiments and relayed hopes that Israel will “emulate the European model” for improving air quality.
Meanwhile, the Dutch vice prime minister reiterated his hopes that the Dutch technology developers are able to globally “help realize sustainable growth.”
“When I come back to Israel I want to still be able to draw in that beautiful sea breeze,” Verhagen said.