Tziki Arbiv - Ilan Assayag - 08022012
Tziki Arbiv, CEO of Milano Engineering, at the dump site in Yavneh. The company has a court-approved agreement to remove the waste, but the city opposes it. Photo by Ilan Assayag
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A plan to construct a residential neighborhood in Yavneh on what is now a large dump site for building waste has been delayed as a result of disagreements between various bodies. And while the Yavneh municipality, the Environmental Protection Ministry, the Israel Lands Administration and a private company bicker about the future of the site, the mound of waste in the south of the city keeps growing, forming an environmental blight in the heart of Yavneh's orchards.

For many years a quarry operated on the site, which previously belonged to Moshav Beit Gamliel. The moshav was permitted to fill the pit, created by quarrying, with surplus soil. But over the years large amounts of building waste were tossed there, resulting in today's mound that destroys the view. The Israel Lands Administration asked the moshav to clear the site and filed a legal suit against it four years ago.

The Milano Engineering Company offered to deal with the waste, and also asked to build a transit station to handle and treat building waste from other sites. "This way it will be possible to finance the removal of the waste at the site and also earn money," said the company's CEO, Tziki Arbiv. In an agreement between the parties, validated by a Petah Tikva District Court ruling some two and a half years ago, the company was permitted to remove the waste. But the ruling stated that construction of additional facilities would be subject to the approval of the planning authorities and coordination with the Environmental Protection Ministry.

And there was the catch.

The company began bringing expensive equipment to the site to sort and scrap the building waste, but when it sought to obtain the necessary permits, it encountered opposition. "The legal agreement was discussed and signed without consultation or obtaining the Environmental Protection Ministry's opinion," noted the ministry's spokesman this week, stating that there is no justification for mining and removing waste from the site, only in order to rehabilitate its upper section and transform it into a public park.

Since the area was transferred to the jurisdiction of Yavneh, the municipality decided to build a residential neighborhood on the site. "The Israel Lands Administration absolved itself of the need to deal with the site and reached an agreement that is unacceptable to me and to the Environmental Protection Ministry," says Yavneh Mayor Zvi Gov-Ari. "I have no interest in turning Yavneh into a transit station to handle waste from other places and enabling the construction of a waste treatment plant on the site."

Environmental Protection Ministry officials said they do not oppose the construction of a waste treatment point, as long as it is waste "originating in sites where construction work is being done and not from other sites."

Due to the objections, the local Yavneh Planning and Construction Committee decided not to permit the company to handle the disposal of the mound of waste. Arbiv appealed the decision to an Interior Ministry committee, which ruled in its favor about six months ago. The committee decided that clean-up of the site may be carried out. It added that there is logic in setting up a transit station at the site, but said that building the station would require the approval of the local planning committee.

The planning committee has yet to hold a discussion of Milano Engineering's request.

"I suggested to the Administration that I accept the job of evacuating the mound," says Arbiv. "In return I asked for a few dunams of the site be used to set up a transit station for handling and treating building waste from other places and for marketing raw materials recycled from the waste. This was assigned without a tender because the Administration understood that there is a developer here who is already willing to invest the necessary money."

Several weeks ago the Yavneh municipality, surprisingly, issued a tender to build a treatment station for construction waste from neighborhoods being built nearby, less than a kilometer from the waste mound. The company sharply protested against the tender arguing that it was an attempt to thwart its venture, and this week the mayor announced the cancelation of the tender. "I didn't want it to sound like I am trying to compete with them," Gov-Ari explained. "The facility is intended to insure that waste is collected and treated appropriately and not sent to pirate sites. I decided to suffice with increased oversight of contractors."

Arbiv has set up machinery to crush construction waste at the site, but he cannot use it. "The state signed a legal agreement with me and therefore I invested millions of shekels," he says, "and now I can't do anything. The mayor says he doesn't want waste from other places, but the open spaces in Yavneh are full of waste from other sites that is tossed here illegally. Today waste transporters have no site nearby to transfer waste to."

Gov-Ari said that if the company vacates the site, "we will take care of cleaning and developing the place." He says that the residential project, involving the construction of thousands of housing units, will fund the cleanup. "The Israel Lands Administration must withdraw the agreement and take responsibility for the site," says Gov-Ari.

There was no comment from the Israel Lands Administration.