Haifa mayor wants oil company out

Six million liters of oil leaked into ground water.

Haifa Mayor Yona Yahav sent an irate letter to National Infrastructures Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer on Wednesday demanding the immediate removal of the government-owned Oil and Energy Infrastructures Company from his city's municipal boundaries. A survey of the company's facility found that over several years, six million liters of oil had been leaked into the ground and the ground water. The Environmental Protection Ministry released the study's conclusions earlier this week, prompting Yahav's letter. "I read and was terrified," Yahav began without any sort of preamble, according to a copy of the letter posted on the municipality's Web site. "I read [the report] again and again and I refuse to believe what is right in front of my eyes. I am angry and furious to read about this ground pollution in the Haifa Port from oil and gas leaking from pipes... And now, the clean-up process will cost a fortune and take a generation," Yahav wrote. The company's activities in Haifa "end here and now," he declared. "I demand from you that you order the immediate cessation of all pouring of gas in the polluted area. To immediately move the gas storage tanks from the municipal bounds of Haifa and to order those responsible for polluting the ground and drinking water to join with the Environmental Protection Ministry to begin without delay the clean-up under international supervision," Yahav wrote. The National Infrastructures Ministry told The Jerusalem Post it had not yet received the letter, and could not comment until then. According to the report, the area under Haifa's train depot is saturated with a million liters of oil, and cleaning up that area alone is likely to take two years. The Environmental Protection Ministry discovered significant quantities of oil in the ground in 2007, during excavations for a building, and pressured the oil company to carry out the survey. In the past six months, the oil company has begun building a concrete canal beneath the main carrier pipe at the oil company's facility to prevent additional spillage. Robert Reuven, head of the Haifa district at the Environmental Protection Ministry, said his office was putting together a strict enforcement plan for the oil company and other potential polluters.