Israel’s leading industrial polluters in 2012 were the Israel Electric Corporation’s power stations, the phosphate and chemical factories of the Israel Chemicals group and the Bazan Oil Refineries facility in Haifa, while the cities with the worst air pollution were Ashdod, Haifa and Hadera, according to a new report by the Environmental Protection Ministry.
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Last year was an unusual one for pollution because of the sharp drop in the supply of natural gas from Egypt, so some of the industrial facilities and electricity production used more polluting fuels, noted the report, which is to be released on Monday.
The Ashkelon power plant, which runs on coal, releases 10 major pollutants into the air and thus leads the list of polluters. In second place are two other power stations, at Gezer and Hagit, and in fourth place are the Ashdod oil refineries. The Dead Sea Works and Rotem Amfert Negev, which belong to the Israel Chemicals group, are also among the top 10 polluters.
Heading the category of emission of the most carcinogens are three power stations – at Ashdod, Ashkelon and Hadera, according to the ministry’s report. Ashdod’s position on the list is exceptional, because in recent years it has been using natural gas, which contains far fewer carcinogenic compounds.
In terms of the general quantities of pollutants released to purification plants, sea and air, the Dan region sewage purification facility, which serves the greater Tel Aviv area, emits the most pollutants, mainly from the sludge it currently releases into the Mediterranean. According to a plan now in the advanced stages of implementation, within two years no more sludge will be channeled to the sea. Rather, it will be treated at land facilities now under construction.
Two Israel Electric Corporation power plants take second and third place for quantity of pollutants, followed by the Dead Sea Works.
Ashdod leads local authorities in quantity of carcinogens in the environment, with an annual 16 tons. However, these are not necessarily materials that all residents are exposed to, because the figures make it difficult to know how they are dispersed in the environment. Second to Ashdod is Haifa, followed by Hadera. Ashkelon is also in the top 10 in this category.
The ministry collected emissions data from 424 facilities, including factories, sewage treatment plants and power plants. All these facilities are required by law to report their emissions levels annually, or to report on the transfer of certain pollutants annually to the sea, air, streams, ground or dump sites.
The Israel Electric Corporation responded: “The corporation’s plants meet the required emission values set by the Environmental Protection Ministry. It should be noted that in 2012, due to the crisis in gas supply from Egypt, costly and polluting fuels were utilized. Beginning in March 2013, with the arrival of gas from the Tamar field, the electric corporation produces 50 percent of its electricity from natural gas, which has led to a significant drop in pollution. The ranking and quantities noted by the ministry ignore characteristics like height of chimneys and temperature of the hot gases in the facilities, which create optimum dispersal of pollutants.”
The IEC also said it had commissioned studies this year from a state-authorized Israeli laboratory showing that carcinogen emissions are currently below levels detectable the lab. “The company will seek a laboratory abroad that can identify the materials and only then can the actual emissions be known,” the IEC said.
Bazan Oil Refineries said it operated according to the law and that all its facilities meet the required standards for air quality. “The group has invested great resources in coordinating with the authorities to protect air quality, including implementing optimal technologies. The data provided by the group in the framework of emissions documentation is a reflection of the extent of this activity. Comparing it to smaller facilities is distorted and does not indicate the extent of compliance with environmental requirements.” Bazan also said that when compared with similar facilities in Europe, the air pollution from the oil refineries in Haifa is very low.
Israel Chemicals said that as a result of a NIS 2.5 billion investment over the past five years, it has brought down pollution levels by 25 percent and its plants meet all Israeli and Western standards. ICL also noted that “the data is the result of size, extent and output” of its facilities, “and does not attest in any way to a problem of any kind stemming from their activities.”