IDF reevaluates Negev base plans, chemical plant faces shutdown

Makhteshim production line of the insecticide Suprathion recommended be shut down until the end of probe.

Ramat Hovav 298 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Ramat Hovav 298
(photo credit: Courtesy)
OC Logistics and Medical Branch Maj.-Gen. Avi Mizrahi appointed a committee on Tuesday to investigate the explosion at the Makhteshim chemical plant near Ramat Hovav, along with the health ramifications the blast may have on plans for an IDF training complex being built in the area. According to an IDF statement, the investigative panel will be headed by the IDF's deputy chief physician, Col. Dr. Nachman Esh, who will be assisted by environmental and IDF safety officials, in cooperation with other outside experts. An IDF spokesperson stressed that the planned site for the complex is located roughly 13 km. from the site of the Ramat Hovav factory. However, she said, the IDF was not willing to gamble with the health of future soldiers at the base, and would discontinue work on the project pending the panel's recommendations. Meanwhile, the Environmental Protection Ministry recommended on Tuesday afternoon that the Makhteshim production line of the insecticide Suprathion be shut down until the end of the investigation into Monday's explosion, which left nine workers injured. At a press conference, Environmental Protection Minister Gideon Ezra presented the findings of an interim report conducted by ministry representatives, the Makhteshim plant and the local council of Ramat Hovav. The report calls the incident "irregular," but states that "there was no deviation of the [permitted 5-km.] radius for toxic substances. The toxic substance spread 2.5 kilometers east of Ramat Hovav." The report further says the southern district will decide whether to take legal action against Makhteshim and its management. It also praises the efficiency of rescue forces in minimizing the damage. The factory management and the local council of Ramat Hovav were instructed to hand their conclusions in to the Environmental Protection Ministry within 14 days.