Want info about pollution near your home? Tough luck

Green group slams Environmental Protection Ministry for failing to provide information on industrial pollution.

Sometimes what you don’t find is more interesting than what you do. Such is the case with the new report to be released Monday morning by Galilee Citizens for the Environment, “Industrial Quiet – Who is Supervising the Factories?”
The report’s origins hark back to three years ago, when the NGO decided to try and monitor whether the factories in their region adhere to government standards. Of the 6,000 factories in the area, they had intended to compile a list of the 100 most dangerous.
The group filed a series of Freedom of Information Act requests to the Environmental Protection Ministry, the Environmental Union of Western Galilee Cities and the local authorities, requesting information about air quality standards, the terms of the factories’ business licenses, wastewater dumping permits and the like.
What emerged three years later is a report on 25 factories; not the 25 most dangerous factories, but merely the 25 factories for which they received any sort of information at all.
Moreover, in a detailed response to the report, the Environmental Protection Ministry said that much of the information cited in the report was not up to date and some of it was inaccurate.
However, as the report’s authors state, the bottom line is that if you are a citizen concerned about industrial pollution near your home, there is very little information which will be handed over to you. They wrote that their Freedom of Information Act requests were either rejected – as in the case of requests to the Environmental Union of Western Galilee Cities – or answered only in part, months afterward.
What information they did receive revealed a lack of ordered process on the part of the ministry in setting standards for businesses and a lack of adequate follow-up, making it hard to catch offenders and subsequently prosecute them, the authors wrote.
The Environmental Protection Ministry responded that many of the complaints the report registered would be dealt with in the context of the Clean Air Act when it goes into effect in January of next year.
For instance, the report cited several factories which had to abide by outdated standards and whose technologies to do so were not the best available. The ministry responded that standards were in the midst of being updated ahead of the new law.
The ministry also pointed out that because of a lack of manpower, its inspectors focused on the factories which presented the most pollution and the most risk, which corresponded to only two of the factories in the report – Profal and Carmochrome. Profal had already been given updated standards and Carmochrome would receive theirs in January with the onset of the law, according to the ministry.
Responding to the report’s complaint that little information aboutfactories was available on the ministry’s Web site, the ministryreplied that it was working on a computerized database that would alsogo live in January. It also maintained that a lot of information wasavailable on its Web site about factories all over the country,including charts and graphs.
The authors called on the ministry to increase its enforcement, calledon the local authorities to fully utilize the powers granted to itsinspectors by a recent law to enforce environmental compliance andcalled on factory workers to beware when working with hazardoussubstances.