By EHUD ZION WALDOKS
The Environmental Protection Ministry has refused to extend Carmel Chemicals' license to handle hazardous chemicals beyond Tuesday, the ministry announced Monday, because of its failure to implement proper environmental practices at its factory in Atlit.
In response to the imminent revocation of its license, the factory's management has forced its 150 employees to take unpaid leave or start eating into their vacation days, since without a license the factory cannot operate.
Carmel Chemicals, which produces amino molding compounds, has been the subject of repeated ministry reprimands and inspections over the last several months. As a result of a court decision, the factory had agreed to take several steps to clean up its act.
However, according to the ministry, while the factory did drain an evaporation pool, they did it in such a way that caused environmental damage. Moreover, residents of the surrounding communities complained of headaches and burning eyes apparently as a result of gases released when the pool was drained, the ministry added.
During a surprise inspection last week, vast quantities of hazardous chemicals and ammonia were discovered - far above the amounts allowed under its license. The factory has also failed to properly seal its production lines or install proper filters, the ministry said.
The ministry deplored the factory's use of its employees in a dispute "which has nothing to do with the employees themselves," and said that while they were concerned with the loss of income the employees would incur, the potential for severe environmental damage and threat to the health of the surrounding communities in Atlit forced their hand.
They also took a jab at the factory's propaganda efforts.
"We deplore the fact that the factory's management is using its employees and their incomes instead of investing in repair of the environmental problems which were presented to them long ago," the ministry said, in a statement.
The factory's management reportedly referred to the loss of its license as a death sentence if it was not returned within two weeks' time. They also said that the ministry's actions were inexplicable since they were in the process of implementing all of the demands.
The ministry said that if Carmel Chemicals complied with its demands, then there was no reason the license could not be reissued.
However, the factory's owner, Gil Dankner, had apparently been planning for such a contingency. Calcalist reported that he plans to merge the factory with another one he owns in the Haifa port and turn the land in Atlit into a residential complex.
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