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The Environmental Protection Ministry plans to close down Frutarom's factory in Haifa Bay and file charges against the company for creating environmental hazards.

A few months ago, the ministry issued a series of requirements to prevent the emission of odors and chemicals after residents in the area reported respiratory difficulties. The ministry is also investigating whether the factory poured toxins into a waste treatment plant.

Frutarom is one of the oldest factories in the Haifa Bay area and its facilities are considered outdated. The publicly traded maker of flavorings for food and beverages recently bought several other companies to the tune of tens of millions of dollars.

For years, the factory's odors have been a nuisance from Volcan Junction to Kiryat Ata Junction. Residents have even filed a NIS 225 million class action suit against the factory for the hazards.

"The factory is obsolete and anything they do to reduce emissions is just a patch," said the deputy director general of the Haifa District Municipal Association for the Environment, Dr. Bernanda Flicstein.

According to Flicstein, the pollution problems can only be solved by building a new factory and enclosing the smokestacks. "It will be necessary to pump the air out of the structure and treat it. Currently, the pollutants are discharged into the air and everyone suffers."

Factory claims it complies

Frutarom said in response that it "manufactures its products meeting the strictest international standards and regulations. Frutarom operates in complete coordination with the Environmental Protection Ministry and invests tremendous resources in protecting the environment according to ministry guidelines."

It said that it had "no knowledge of plans to act against the factory and if an indictment is filed we are convinced the courts will quickly realize any charges are baseless."

The ministry this week published the results of extensive air-quality testing conducted over the past year that indicate high quantities of carcinogenic substances and pollutants that were not previously examined such as benzene, chloroform, methylene and chloride.

Although the sources of pollution have not been positively identified, the ministry prepared a list of factories including Frutarom that use these carcinogenic ingredients.

MK Ophir Pines-Paz - head of the Knesset Internal Affairs and Environment Committee - said that an emergency meeting on the matter will be held next week and he will demand that the environment minister close factories temporarily.

"The factories must be closed until the problems are repaired. The state must exercise its authority. Just like nightclubs are closed if someone is killed there, carcinogenic factories must be closed too," he said.