Ecology Experts Find Sources of Haifa Area Air Irritants

Environment experts yesterday identified two sources of air pollution responsible for eye irritation and shortness of breath among dozens of residents of Kiryat Ata, Kiryat Tibon and Nofit at Haifa Bay.

Tests conducted by the Environmental Protection Ministry and the Haifa Bay Municipalities Organization pointed to excessive emissions from the Frutarom chemical plant and the unauthorized burning of tires and plastic near the shopping center at the Kiryat Ata junction.

Robert Reuven, who heads the Haifa district office at the Environmental Protection Ministry, said executives at Frutarom, which produces flavor and fragrance compounds for the food industry, would be summoned to appear at a hearing Sunday for disciplinary action after the ministry identified irregular chemical emissions.

Reuven said the ministry's legal division was looking into the possibility of shutting down the plant or revoking its license for the use of poisonous materials. "Ministry workers are continuing to investigate the evidence gathered overnight to determine which chemicals were involved and in what quantities," he said.

Reuven added that someone had set fire to plastic-coated cables and tires at the Kiryat Ata junction. The fumes, Frutarom's emissions and strong westerly winds exposed civilians to dangerous chemical compounds, he said.

Reuven stressed that most chemical plants in the Haifa Bay area operated in accordance with "the strictest" restrictions established by the ministry. "The problem is with the smaller establishments ... that are not doing enough to implement our standards," he said. "We will need to be more stringent when it comes to granting operational licenses to factories."

Plant: No rules were broken

Frutarom said that tests conducted by ministry officials on its premises last night failed to uncover the source of irregular odors from the plant. The company said in a statement that it "operates in full coordination and cooperation with the Environmental Protection Ministry and complies with all its directives."

Yizhar Reshef, a spokesman for the Coalition for Public Health, complained that "the police are not cooperating sufficiently with the Environmental Protection Ministry in fighting unauthorized fires." The police commander in the Zebulon district, Jamal Khakrush, said the police had not opened an investigation into the matter because no formal complaint was submitted.