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Representatives from the Environmental Protection Ministry told Composteva, a legal waste disposal company, that they were cracking down on 63 illegal garbage dumps. The statement came on the heels of complaints earlier this month that Composteva was being harmed by competition from illegal dumping operations.

Ministry officials said the staff of the ministry's southern district and the "Green Police", the ministry's enforcement unit, are doing everything they can to deal with illegal waste sites.

"It's a game of cat and mouse," said a senior ministry official last week regarding efforts to close illegal compost sites for animal waste. While the ministry is working to bring illegal sites within the confines of the law, pirate waste operators continue to run other illegal dumps and even open new dumps.

The senior source said there have been cases in which pirate waste operators have brought a site into legal compliance but at the same time have opened new illegal dumps for cow manure they had already contracted to receive.

Recently the Environmental Protection Minister authorized a plan to deal with an illegal site set up by Yitzhak Ohayon near Kibbutz Ruhama east of Sderot. The ministry said its staff is monitoring progress in bringing the site into compliance so that it no longer poses environmental hazards such as polluting groundwater or causing foul odors and that the waste site operator has so far adhered to the agreed upon time frame.

This week, however, the ministry claimed that Ohayon is continuing to operate an additional illegal compost site near Kibbutz Gvulot in the Western Negev. Ohayon this week denied that the location belongs to him.

Composteva runs a legal dump site in the Negev near Kibbutz Gevim in the Negev. Following their meeting with Environmental Protection Ministry officials this month, an adviser to the company, Avraham Naparstek, said, "The approval to continue the operation of the site at Ruhama is outrageous. It is a site without a building permit and there is still a long way to go until it receives a business license. It has been operating for many years without permits and it has been allowed to continue to function even though Composteva's site didn't receive even a minute of leniency when it was in the final stages of being set up."

Ilan Zadikov, a senior ministry official, acknowledged in the course of the meeting with Composteva representatives that due to shortages of personnel, the ministry is unable to enforce the requirement that manure be disposed of only in authorized dump sites.

"The concessions extended to pirate dump sites block many of [the ministry's] accomplishments," another ministry source said.