Recent groundwater and soil tests carried out in the Tel Aviv area by Israel’s Water Authority prove that more than 30 years after the closure of an Israel Military Industries factory, the pollution that it caused still threatens the region’s groundwater supply and endangers public health. Following the findings, the Water Authority will need to formulate a clean-up plan to prevent the spread of the pollutants.
The site in question is located at the end of the Arvei Nahal Street in Tel Aviv and was home to an IMI factory from 1948 until 1980. The factory produced various types of ammunition, mainly for light weapons, and handled the cleaning and polishing of bullet cartridges and casings. The factory used sulfuric acid and chlorine-based solvents in the industrial process and the wastewater from the plant went to collection pits, from where it flowed through a drainage system and into the sewers. However, some of this factory effluent actually seeped into the ground, reaching groundwater sources.
During the tests, almost no pollutants were found in the upper soil layer. But further below, high concentrations were found of pollutants such as Trichloroethylene and Tetrachloroethylene, which are suspected carcinogens that impair different body systems. At 15 meters depth, the test team found concentrations of toxic substances considerably greater than the permissible limit for drinking water. The tests were led by Sara Elhanany and Guy Reshef of the water quality division at Israel Water Authority.
It should be pointed out that some of the pollutants found in the soil could be released into the environment as toxic gas vapors through underground cavities. This is a particularly sensitive issue for the Arvei Nahal site because it is located next to the planned route for Tel Aviv’s yet-to-be-built subway.
In recent years, the Water Authority has been regularly measuring the pollution levels at five sites in the country’s central Gush Dan region where IMI munitions factories were once located. The most polluted site that has yet to be found is that of the former Magen plant on the border between Tel Aviv and the city of Givatayim.
At most of the former factory sites the polluted top-soil has already been removed but a significant portion of the pollution has already permeated deeply into the soil. More than ten wells for drinking in the area have already been determined to be unsuitable for human use due to pollutants that originated at IMI plants. The Water Authority believes that additional areas are likely to be harmed by the spread of pollutants from different sites unless quick action is taken to clean up the soil or purify the underlying groundwater.