Carmel City fined NIS 250,000 for sewage leaks in Nahal Oren

The Haifa Magistrates' Court has fined the Carmel City - formerly known as Daliat al-Carmel-Usfiya - NIS 250,000 over seven incidents in which it allowed raw sewage to flow into the Oren River in 2003, reports Judge Rachel Hose said that local authorities were supposed to function for the benefit of their residents, but in this case the local authority had failed to act for years to fix problems at the Usfiya sewage station, and this was having harmful effects even today. According to the report, the city and several of its officials were charged with allowing the Usfiya station to release raw sewage into the river on seven separate occasions in 2003, causing serious pollution and strong odors in the area of the Carmel Forests. "Every properly functioning society is measured, among other things, by the level of its commitment to preserving the quality of the environment and the quality of the life inside it... Problems of environmental pollution are problems for society as a whole, as they injure the rights of residents to a life that has quality and that does not have risks to their health, and in years to come their results could give rise to a catastrophe," the judge said. "It is even worse when criminal acts such as throwing waste into a source of water... are done by a local authority, which is supposed to act for the welfare of its residents." The judge said there had been leakage problems at the Usfiya plant for years, but the city had acted only to "put out fires" and had not taken any action to find a long-term, permanent solution. "As a result of the absence of any real treatment, the damages continue even today," she said. She fined the city NIS 250,000 and ordered it to commit an additional NIS 100,000 toward preventing a repeat of the problems within three years. The former head of the city's Sanitation Department was fined NIS 4,000, and the former head of the city council was tried and sentenced separately. A spokeswoman for the Israeli Union for Environmental Defense said that while the sentence was welcome, the fine was not large enough to prove a real deterrent, as maintaining sewerage systems properly cost far more than this.