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The severe ground and groundwater pollution caused in the past by the Israel Military Industries facilities in Ramat Hasharon are spreading to previously unaffected areas and could render millions of cubic meters of underground sources of drinking water unusable, according to a Water Authority document.

The Water Authority said the cost of cleaning up the pollution caused by IMI could reach half a billion shekels, even though the chemical leaks that caused the pollution were stopped many years ago. The report was made available to the Knesset in advance of a session of the Knesset's Health and Environment Committee on the pollution caused by IMI.

The IMI facility has a history of leaking poisonous chemicals onto the ground and into ground water, including large quantities of rocket fuel containing the chemical perchlorate. The authority said the pollution is spreading despite the fact that the leaks were dealt with years ago.

The Water Authority document said perchlorate levels of more than 30,000 times the limits allowed in the United States have been detected. (Israel doesn't have a specific perchlorate standard. ) Perchlorate can affect thyroid and hormone functions, among other things. Pollution from perchlorate and other substances has forced the closure of all of the wells in Ramat Hasharon as well as four in Tel Aviv.

The latest findings show that the pollution is spreading faster than what experts had predicted. Perchlorate has recently been found in ground water up to 4.5 kilometers from the IMI site, including the area of the Interdisciplinary Center higher education campus in Herzliya, the Kfar Hayarok school campus at the southern edge of Ramat Hasharon and Tel Aviv's Shikun Dan neighborhood.

The authority's report states that the recent findings raise concerns over continued well production in the area and confirm the immediate need to implement a rehabilitation plan based on pumping out and treating polluted water. The plan proposed by the Water Authority includes drilling at four sites on the IMI complex on a continuous basis for a 20-year period, which, with the addition of other steps, is expected to cost up to half a billion shekels.