Breached Oil Pipeline Must Stay Shut Until Further Notice, Says Environment Ministry

Pipeline caused crude to gush out into nature reserve some 20 kilometers north of Eilat, causing one of the worst environmental disasters in Israeli history.

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Oil spill at Evrona Nature Reserve
Oil spill at Evrona Nature ReserveCredit: Israel Nature and Parks Authority

The Environmental Protection Ministry has banned the Eilat-Ashkelon Pipeline Company from renewing the flow of oil in the pipeline until further notice, after millions of liters of crude leaked into the Evrona nature reserve in southern Israel.

On Thursday, the breached pipeline caused crude oil to gush out into the nature reserve some 20 kilometers north of Eilat, causing one of the worst environmental disasters in Israel’s history. Oil slicks quickly spread over several kilometers and the main road to Eilat was closed intermittently.

So far, some 8,500 tons of polluted soil have been removed from the area. Over the weekend employees of the pipeline company finished pumping out the largest deposits of crude oil and on Saturday they began removing contaminated soil from a number of locations in Evrona. As of Saturday evening, 6,000 tons of soil had been removed to a purpose-built site near Eilat.

“Today we will continue the cleanup with a number of teams,” the Eilat area director of the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, Doron Nissim, said on Saturday, adding that inspectors from the agency would be monitoring the work closely in order to prevent additional damage to the nature reserve.

Guy Samet, from the Ministry’s southern district, said Friday that “we are in a race against time in an attempt to extract most of the oil out of the Evrona Nature Reserve before it reaches the Gulf.”

In a meeting on Friday it was stated that rains could cause flooding which would disperse the oil across larger areas, further damaging flora and fauna in the area. The floods could also sweep some of the oil as far as the Gulf of Eilat.

“Our concern is that a serious flood going through the reserve would sweep up pollutants and oil that has not been pumped away yet. This has grave ecological implications, including damage to coral reefs in the Gulf. Currently, efforts are being made to remove as much oil and soil as possible to other locations,” added Samet.

Experts have not yet determined exactly how the oil spill occurred, although it is thought to be the result of a technical malfunction in one of the pipeline’s connectors.