Ministry circulates bill to fight ground pollution

New bill would first and foremost formally forbid the contamination of land.

pollution 88 (photo credit: )
pollution 88
(photo credit: )
The Environmental Protection Ministry's legal department is circulating a bill to other ministries that would fight ground contamination, asking them to comment within 21 days. The new bill would first and foremost formally forbid the contamination of land. Until now, violators have been prosecuted under a variety of regulations dealing with contamination of water sources, since ground contamination could very well lead to water contamination. This reflected the old perception that ground contamination was a potential threat to water alone. However, the new approach around the world has been to view land as a natural resource in and of itself, whose pollution should be prevented. The bill would also require companies to undertake regular inspections and investigate potentially contaminated land and rehabilitate it. The bill grants the ministry enforcement authority, with officials saying it would require an extra 12 people to enforce the law once it was passed. Contaminated land poses health risks for those coming into contact with it, as well as from vapors that rise from the polluted areas, the ministry said. The bill was formulated after the ministry undertook a survey of international laws and regulations on the matter. As a single law providing comprehensive treatment for an environmental issue, it follows last year's Clean Air Act, which standardized the treatment of air pollution. For many years, Israeli companies routinely dumped their toxic waste over the fence of their "backyards," with no regard for the long-term consequences. As a result, some land requires treatment for 60 years' worth of neglect. Companies have proven reluctant to treat their contaminated land, particularly if they inherited the problem from previous owners. From a legal perspective, the issue is complicated because the law would have to be applied retroactively in most cases, the ministry wrote in the summary of the bill. Attorneys Iris Shalit and Neta Drori, the ministry officials responsible for the bill, said that significant financial resources would be needed to repair the damage of the past. But ultimately, they contended, the bill would bring money into government coffers for a rehabilitation fund, which would be created from fines and penalties as well as government money. Moreover, the rehabilitated land itself would then be worth much more and could be further developed, they said.