A Rehovot building project.
A Rehovot building project. Photo by Ofer Vaknin
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The Water Authority has found a high concentration of a suspected carcinogen on the grounds of the El-Op electronics factory in northern Rehovot's Science Park.

The substance was discovered during a series of routine groundwater examinations that the authority conducts in various locations to uncover new points of pollution caused by manufacturing and agriculture.

Last week, the authority informed El-Op that an investigative drilling near the plant had uncovered a high concentration of tetrachloroethylene, a suspected carcinogen. The concentration was 20 times greater than the amount found five years ago in a previous examination.

Water Authority officials said they believe the pollution was caused by a company called Broshim, which in the 1970s operated at the site where El-Op is now located, and which used various chemical products for coating metals.

Because the affected area is on El-Op property, the company is expected to help determine the scope of the polluted area and cooperate in preventing the spread of pollution. Because the authority found the pollution at several spots near the factory, officials said it appears the pollution is spreading and poses a threat to the local water sources.

El-Op said, "We're talking about activity that stopped many years ago. We are studying the authority's report and we'll formulate a course of action accordingly."

In the same area, the Water Authority discovered the highest concentrations ever found in Israel of the known carcinogen ethylene dibromide. In one of its drillings, it found a concentration of the chemical that was 20 times greater than what is permitted in drinking water.

The Water Authority determined that ethylene dibromide had been used in the past as a disinfectant in produce-packing houses. The authority is now weighing whether to check other areas in the region where packing houses had operated. Chloroform, another toxic substance used in manufacturing, has also been found to be polluting areas near Rehovot.

Still another significant source of pollution in the region was discovered at an Israel Military Industries site northeast of Rehovot, where the company used perchlorate to make missile fuel.

Until about 15 years ago, this material was removed from the factory to septic tanks, from which it leached out into the soil and groundwater, according to the Water Authority. The pollution found today is reportedly the result of past activity.

According to a survey conducted recently for the Water Authority by the firm Lodan, there is significant groundwater pollution in the IMI compound. This pollution has already spread as far as 6 kilometers and is threatening water sources in the Rehovot area.

Lodan recommended that more examinations be conducted to determine the full scope of the pollution - and that the authority be prepared to take action, including pumping out all the polluted water so it doesn't spread further.