Factories suspected of leaking carcinogens to be probed

Environmental Protection Ministry: Levels of several dangerous chemicals in the air are much higher than was safe.

haifa petrochemicals  (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
haifa petrochemicals
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The Environmental Protection Ministry told the Knesset Internal Affairs and Environment Committee on Sunday that those in charge of 11 factories who might be leaking carcinogenic chemicals into the air around Haifa Port will be brought in for questioning in the next two weeks. The ministry released a report last week which found that the levels of several dangerous chemicals in the air were much higher than was safe. The ministry tested the air quality around the port for 24 hours in June and then again in September. They found that the levels of benzene, chloroform, methylene chloride, formaldehyde, and trichloroethylene were all too high. The above are all either carcinogenic or suspected of being carcinogenic. The 11 factories either use, store or sell the chemicals in question. Shuli Nezer, head of the air pollution branch at the ministry, told the committee that more tests would be conducted in February to locate the sources of the pollution, which thus far remain unknown. Committee head MK Ophir Paz-Pines (Labor) demanded that the factories suspected of releasing the chemicals be shut down until the leaks could be identified. "We must close down suspected factories until it can be proven that they are not the polluters. It cannot be that in Israel in 2008 there is an occupation [the] price [of which] is human lives," he declared. The Israel Union of Environmental Defense said last week that the data supported what they have been claiming all along. "The data proves what we have been claiming again and again, that the air pollution in the Haifa Port represents a clear and present danger to the residents of the area. It is time for the Environmental Protection Ministry to take enforcement of air pollution laws seriously and take action against those who pollute and endanger lives. "This intolerable situation forces legislators to hurry up and finish the clean air bill, which will put concrete obligations on the government to treat air pollution," the environmental group said in a statement.