Pollution shuts down two Tel Aviv beaches

Tel Aviv's Frishman and Gordon beaches have been closed for swimming since Thursday morning due to heavy pollution, probably caused by local business owners' illegal sewage hookups. Nitzan Dan, deputy manager of Gordon Beach, noticed the pollution while patrolling the shore on Wednesday evening. Dan reported a strong smell and "unidentified elements" in the water to the Tel Aviv Municipality. After the Interior Ministry tested the water and found that it was highly polluted, the ministry instructed the city and the beach administration to close the beaches in question immediately and until further notice. In addition, the Health Ministry issued a warning against swimming at either of those locations. Unlike a previous incident in 2003, when it was discovered that the city's sewage system had collapsed and that waste was pouring into the sea, it appears that this time certain business owners are to blame, having found a creative way to save expenses and illegally connected their places of business to the city's sewage system. "According to the information we received, the pollution started two days ago. When the municipality received the report, the smell was already very strong," said Sarit Rogenstein, national project director at the Zalul environmental NGO. The Dan Region Association of Towns for Sewage, which is responsible for the water and sewage infrastructures in the area, strongly criticized the businesses. "Pirate bodies and businesses which connect themselves illegally to the sewage system endanger [swimmers] and should be charged for criminal misconduct. The Association of Towns for Sewage in the Dan Region is working together with the Tel Aviv Municipality to track down the criminals," said Amnon Liebermann, spokesman of the association. Liebermann refuted suspicions that the sewage leak was linked to the Shafdan Dan Region wastewater treatment facility. "The Shafdan is a closed system that has no exit in this part of Tel Aviv. If there were a leak, we'd have known about it and acted to prevent the damage - especially at this time of the year, when the beaches are busy," Liebermann said.