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Converting animal waste into agricultural fertilizer is generally seen as a valuable recycling method that helps us reap benefits from materials that could otherwise pose environmental hazards. But as Be'er Sheva residents discovered on Wednesday, improperly produced fertilizer poses an environmental hazard in itself.

The Be'er Sheva municipality launched an investigation yesterday after complaints about a pungent odor poured in to city hall and the Environmental Protection Ministry. The ministry said officials in its southern district took air samples to try to locate the origin of the stench, but soon determined that it was not coming from a specific location but was a more widespread problem. The city then expanded its probe, enlisting the Green Police in the effort as well.

Police ultimately concluded that the stench originated in compost produced from chicken waste that had not been subjected to all of the necessary treatment procedures, including spraying the waste with various odor-reducing agents.

A complaint was lodged with the Be'er Sheva police for failing to properly treat the waste.

Officials found that the fertilizer had been spread around a large agricultural area in fields located between the Be'er Sheva-area communities of Omer and Tel Sheva.

Compost is produced from animal waste or the byproducts of waste purification in a number of locations nationwide.

High-quality, odor-free organic compost can be successfully produced from animal waste, but only if the proper decontamination methods are followed.

Still, there are have been a number of instances in which fertilizer production or the improper use of fertilizer has resulted in foul odors spread over large areas.

The Environmental Protection Ministry recently decided to hold a comprehensive review of the high rate of odor-related complaints in the Kiryat Gat area.

Meanwhile, the ministry is expected over the next few weeks to release proposals for building recycling facilities in Israel in an effort to increase the recycling industry as a whole.

The ministry has committed NIS 300 million to support the initiatives, which would create facilities to sort organic waste from dry urban waste.