Air pollution at oil spill site minimized, but cleanup still in full swing

Oil spill site completely free of liquid petroleum; investigation into circumstances of spill still underway.

Shaul Goldstein (left) and MK Ofir Akunis (photo credit: ENVIRONMENT PROTECTION MINISTRY)
Shaul Goldstein (left) and MK Ofir Akunis
Air quality tests indicate a 90 percent reduction of pollution levels in the Evrona Nature Reserve area, the site of last month’s large oil spill north of Eilat, the Environmental Protection Ministry reported on Monday.
“All of the oil has been pumped – parts of the reserve will be opened to the public soon,” Deputy Environmental Protection Minister Ophir Akunis said, after touring the site in the morning.
Cleanup has been ongoing since the Eilat-Ashkelon Pipeline Company spill took place on December 3, sending some 5 million liters of crude oil surging into the Arava. After further tests in the coming days and weeks, a decision will be made as to when to reopen the Evrona Reserve to the public, the ministry said.
At the end of December, the government approved a NIS 17 million budget to rehabilitate the portions of the desert affected by the oil spill, in addition to the funds being contributed by EAPC for the cleanup. About 30 companies have been participating in the decontamination effort, the ministry said.
During Akunis’s tour of the region on Monday, Israel Nature and Parks Authority director-general Shaul Goldstein updated the deputy minister on the companies’ trials with various technologies to clean up the polluted soil. Following the completion of these trials, a decision will be made as to the best method of purifying the land without causing damage to the surrounding reserve, Goldstein said.
Akunis and Environment Ministry officials also visited the dams that have been erected to prevent the spread of contamination in the event of flooding, the ministry said. Meanwhile, all 700 polluted puddles that had been scattered around the area for a number of kilometers have successfully been pumped by INPA and EAPC employees, the ministry added.
At the moment, the reserve is completely free from liquid petroleum – which could pose particular dangers if flooding were to occur, according to the ministry.
The Environment Ministry’s Green Police opened a criminal investigation to examine the circumstances behind the spill, and work on the case is ongoing, the ministry said.
“We are doing everything in order to return life to the reserve,” Akunis said.
“Soon tractors will be replaced by families and hikers who will return to enjoy one of the most beautiful reserves in the Arava. At the same time, I am working to release the EAPC beach in Eilat for the general public, and to preserve the coral reef found there.”