Kishon River - Gil Guttman - July 2011
The Kishon. Half the cleanup will be met by the government. Photo by Gil Guttman
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The cabinet yesterday approved a cleanup program for the Kishon streambed to remove a layer of contaminated material that has accumulated there over the years.

The project, put together by the Environmental Protection Ministry, is to take about three years and will cost an estimated NIS 220 million.

Half the cost will be borne by the government and the other half by local authorities and industries along the banks of the stream, which flows along the eastern side of the Carmel range and out to the Mediterranean at Haifa Bay.

Work to drain 1.5 kilometers of the streambed by digging a detour channel for the Kishon's water is to start in the coming months. The contaminated material will them be dredged from the streambed using special equipment. Negotiations are now underway with Kibbutz Yagur to obtain passage through its fields, through which the Kishon flows.

"We will be publishing an international tender to chose a company that will be in charge of biological treatment of the contaminated materials we take out of the streambed," said Haim Hami, director of the Kishon Drainage Authority, which is in charge of the project's implementation.

Hami said the authority was now completing laboratory testing of the level of contamination in the streambed.

Polluted materials that have been removed from the streambed in the past and moved to storage tanks near the Kishon are also to be treated.

When the treatment is completed, the newly cleaned area will become the centerpiece of the largest park of its kind in the Haifa area, Hami said. He added that since most of the funding had already been earmarked for the project, he believed it would stay on schedule.

The water quality in the Kishon has improved greatly over the past few years due to the fact that the Environmental Protection Ministry and the Kishon Drainage Authority forced the industries along the stream to raise the purification level of waste they channel into it. But until the streambed itself is cleaned the stream will remain polluted, and drainage problems will worsen, leading to increased flood risk.

Cleanup of the streambed has always been considered the most complicated and expensive part of rehabilitating the Kishon. The 2.5-meter thick contaminated section, along about seven kilometers of the stream, contains the remains of oil compounds and heavy metals.

Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan said after yesterday's cabinet meeting that approved the project: "I'm proud that the most polluted stream in the country will soon be the country's pride and glory, and people will be able to enjoy a clean stream surrounded by a park."