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Raw sewage has been flowing into the Mediterranean Sea, at a rate of about 30,000 cubic meters a day, since a main sewage pipe in Haifa was damaged yesterday. A Kishon River Authority official said the spill will do serious harm to the ecology of the river, which is being rehabilitated.

The damage occurred when employees of the Solel Boneh construction company who were drilling on a Haifa street hit a main sewage line. Untreated sewage flooded the Gedora stream, one of the Kishon's main tributaries, reaching the river and the sea.

The Solel Boneh contractor was laying drainage pipe for Yefe Nof, a subsidiary of the Haifa municipality. Apparently neither he nor the project planners knew there was a sewage line near their work site.

"In recent years we have been making great efforts to rehabilitate the river and return various flora and fauna to the river," Kishon River Authority director Sharon Nissim said.

"Every accident like this takes us back many years and causes the river and the ecological system severe damage." She said the effects of the contamination are expected to show up later, and may include the death of fish and other wildlife.

The Environment Ministry's Haifa District Director, Robert Reuven, said the ministry was investigating the accident and intends to question the contractor, Solel Boneh and the municipality, among others.

He said the ministry will examine how the municipality issued construction permits without checking the infrastructure and without supervising the work.

Reuven said there were also hazardous-materials infrastructures in the area.

A Yefe Nof company official said the planners and contractor were not aware of the sewage pipe's location. "All the work is based on detailed plans that have been approved by all the authorized bodies," he said.

Yefe Nof chairman Itzik Regev appointed a team to probe the incident.

Work began last night to stop the spill, after several hours during which it flowed unimpeded into the river. An official for Yefe Nof said the work was postponed until night because of the heavy traffic in the area during the day.