Israel’s beaches continue to be polluted by large quantities of litter, are periodically shut down by sewage leaks and are too often vandalized by visitors, according to new data from the Environmental Protection Ministry and green groups.
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The ministry this week issued its bimonthly “clean coast” index, which deals with conditions at undeclared public beaches. The beach inspections were done right after the holidays, and they were found to be in poor shape. Of the 41 beaches checked, only eight were found to be clean or very clean – three of them in Tel Aviv. Fifteen others were declared dirty or very dirty, while the others were given a middling grade.
The cleanliness index is determined by the number of plastic items (the size of a bottle cap or larger) and number of cigarette butts found in a given section of the beach. The littering is particularly severe along the coast south of Palmahim Beach (about 10 kilometers – 6.2 miles – south of Tel Aviv).
A previous inspection before the holidays found the beaches in about the same condition, so the littering has been going on for some time.
The environmental group Zalul also just released its report on the frequency of sewage leaks during the so-called bathing season. It found that during this year’s season, official public beaches were closed by leaks nine different times, for a total of 59 days – twice as many days as last year.
The most serious incident was the closure of Nitzanim beach (between Ashkelon and Ashdod) to bathers for several weeks. This was caused by an ongoing malfunction at a sewage installation that was meant to have been closed.
The Mei Ami beach in Ashdod was recently closed for five days due to a problem in a main sewage line, which sent a large quantity of sewage into the Lachish stream. The Ashdod municipality built an earthen dam to keep the sewage from flowing into the sea, but last week’s heavy rains caused the dam to give way and the sewage reached the sea and caused the beach’s closure.
The situation at the country’s official beaches is better, since most of them are regularly maintained by the local authorities. However, they are subject to vandalism against equipment and installations used by bathers. Several weeks ago, a representative of the Blue Flag organization – which grants quality certification to beaches that are clean and well-maintained – made a surprise visit. The organization is represented in Israel by the EcoOcean NGO.
During the tour, the Blue Flag representative withdrew the blue flag from two Eilat beaches because of the vandalism he found there. EcoOcean stressed that the representative praised the cleanliness of other official beaches.