Over the last few weeks bulldozers have been removing huge piles of building waste from a site in Petah Tikva in order to pave a new section of a road and build an educational complex. That would be good news for Petah Tikva residents, if they didn't have to pick up the NIS 6 million tab for the cleanup effort, which involves crushing and recycling the building materials. Waste contractors polluted the site over the years and profited from it, but none of those contractors have to shoulder the costs of the cleanup - and, as far as is known, none have been fined or imprisoned for the serious pollution they caused.
Petah Tikva, of course, is not alone in facing this blight. In Hod Hasharon, a contractor continued dumping building waste on a plot in the middle of the city for several years, endangering a water drilling site. In an area designated for a residential neighborhood in Yavne, a building waste dump sprouted and the cost of removing it will probably be in the tens of millions of shekels. In other cities, too, there are sites where waste is piling up. And transit stations have been set up to handle waste from various places relay it to other unauthorized dump sites.
An attempt to find out from the Petah Tikva municipality who was responsible for creating this waste site near Rishon Letzion Street and another adjacent one did not merit any response. Instead the city offered a general response saying among other things: "The phenomenon of improper construction waste disposal en masse is a plague in the state and has not skipped over Petah Tikva, where thousands of housing units were built during the past few years. However, a lot of waste is being taken to authorized sites or crushed and then recycled."
"The city is using a variety of methods to catch the violators and has hired security companies, installed cameras and started municipal patrols around the clock. The police and the city have launched an effort to catch the waste violators and the public is involved and has been encouraged to report violations so that legal complaints can be filed. Every developer and contractor is required to report, as a condition for receiving a construction permit, an estimate of the waste to be generated, and make an arrangement with an approved site and presented receipts of payment for waste disposal. The phenomenon has been decreased, but not eliminated."
Only recently, have authorities and courts begun to recognize the need to clean up the waste dumps and impose monetary sanctions to fund the removal of waste from these sites. This is what happened with the site operated by a company with the presumptuous name, Green Recycling, on agricultural land in the Rishon Letzion municipality's jurisdiction.
Building waste was brought to this site in violation of the law, and some of it was transferred to other sites - all of which caused environmental damage. The state and the Rishon Letzion municipality issued indictments against the site's operators and finally decided several months ago to issue an injunction to close the site. A Rishon Letzion court ruled that the site's operators must deposit a personal check for NIS 400,000 and a bank guarantee for another NIS 100,000 to ensure the site is cleared.
In another case, likely to set a precedent, the Israel Lands Administration sought to liquidate the assets of a Jaffa resident, Anwar Sharqawi, who the ILA claims trespassed onto a site which he used for dumping waste. Sharqawi appealed to the Tel Aviv Magistrate Court and asked not to be evicted and also argued that the waste was dumped at the site by others. Later on, he withdrew his request, but asked for the return of the guarantee the court had insisted he deposit.
Judge Rachel Arkovi ruled that the ILA provided proof that there was indeed an illegal waste-handling business being operated at the site. She noted that Sharqawi did not present any proof that he sought to remove the waste. She accepted the ILA request and instructed that the NIS 28,000 guarantee deposited by Sharqawi be used to pay for the cost of clearing the site.
This ruling perhaps heralds a change in the indifferent attitude toward waste disposal offenders. The ones who need to mobilize the effort are the government and municipal enforcement agencies. The Ministry of Environmental Protection has already starting doing this by confiscating trucks of drivers convicted of dumping waste at illegal sites.
The local authorities were authorized in recent years to enforce environmental laws and they are also responsible for imposing tough sanctions on polluters. The time has come for mayors to alleviate the plight of residents who are forced to live with environmental blights and then required to cover the cost of dealing with them.
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