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The beaches of Tel Aviv and Herzliya were once more declared off-limits to swimmers yesterday after a dam burst Sunday night that had been constructed to stop sewage from flowing from the Ayalon River into the Yarkon River, and from there to the Mediterranean Sea. By yesterday afternoon the dam had been repaired, but the sewage had by then flowed for several hours.

The national supervisor for environmental health in the Health Ministry, Ze'ev Fisch, told Haaretz yesterday that the two major beaches might not be clean enough to open for the swimming season in about a month.

A spokesperson for the Environmental Protection Ministry said hearings are to be held next week for the mayors of Kiryat Ono and Or Yehuda, because the towns are partially responsible for maintenance of the sewerage lines.

The sewer main burst for the first time in early February, leading to the construction of the dam. A week ago, the beaches were reopened. The Dan region environmental quality body, which built the dam together with the Mekorot water company, said a burst Mekorot pipe near Rishon Letzion and increased sewage had caused the dam to collapse.

The director of the Dan region body, Arnon Giladi, said he had warned in writing that the damage had to be repaired immediately.

Fisch said the Yarkon area stank from sewage, and warned the public to stay away from beaches in Tel Aviv and Herzliya until a proper engineering solution could be found.

The acting director general of the Or Yehuda municipality, Meir Hasson, said "this sewerage line has many partners beyond Or Yehuda and Kiryat Ono." He pointed out that the Hiriya landfill covered part of the pipe years ago and damaged it. "We have no access and the garbage is not removed to allow us to get to it. We are a small municipality, trying to do what we can with limited means."

The Kiryat Ono municipality also cited Hiriya as the culprit, noting that work approved by the Interior Ministry transforming the landfill into the Ariel Sharon Park had caused the sewerage pipe to collapse.