Haifa oil spill prompts warnings to avoid nearby beaches

Amid operations to remove old pipelines, a maintenance ship rammed into one of the pipes and burst it open.

Oil spill in the Haifa Bay, July 5, 2016 (photo credit: ENVIRONMENT PROTECTION MINISTRY)
Oil spill in the Haifa Bay, July 5, 2016
Five cubic meters of oil spilled into the Haifa Bay on Tuesday during work by Petroleum & Energy Infrastructures Ltd.
to dismantle underwater oil pipes from the 1930s.
While the work was being done off the coast of the city’s Kiryat Haim neighborhood, a boat carrying out the dismantling process accidentally damaged one of the pipes, causing the remaining oil contained within to leak out.
A spokesman for the company noted that as soon as the event happened, they were immediately able to stop the flow and the company is now carrying out the clean-up process. Figures for how much oil spilled were not available but the company’s spokesman said it was “not so much.”
Although he noted that the oil was away from the beaches, and the Environmental Protection Ministry said it was 1,200 meters off the coast, the Ministry still issued a “recommendation” to avoid the beach for the next few hours.
The ministry pointed out that PEI is replacing five old pipes that are no longer in use, following leaks discovered in 2014. PEI took responsibility for removing the retired pipeline. The company currently uses a newer pipeline for importing crude oil for processing at a facility in Kiryat Haim.
By the evening, the company noted that remaining oil spots in the area were cleaned up, but the situation would continue to be monitored.
Though the leak was stopped, it drew the ire of officials and environmental groups toward pollution and Israeli energy policy in general.
Greenpeace Israel called the incident “another black stain” on the pollution issue in Haifa and called for the country to start an “oil detox program” with a move toward cleaner energy sources.
Zionist Union MK Yael Cohen Paran said that the event showed that even after years of outcry, “Israel still doesn’t know how to deal with sea pollution” and pointed out that the spill happened “not far from where the country is drilling for oil and gas,” referring to the offshore Tamar natural gas reservoir.
“It’s all connected to the industrial factories that are polluting our air and now the sea as well,” she said.