Garbage Fills Israel’s Beaches After First Rains

Sea pollution reported by Tel Aviv swimmers and surfers after the Sukkot eve storm included animal carcasses in the water.

Zafrir Rinat
Zafrir Rinat
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Tel Aviv beach.
Tel Aviv beach.Credit: Nir Kafri
Zafrir Rinat
Zafrir Rinat

The season’s first serious rainstorm, on the eve of Sukkot, swept a huge amount of garbage from the streets of the coastal cities onto the country’s beaches.

Researchers who surveyed the Netanya beach a few hours after the rainstorm found a significant amount of garbage in the vicinity of the pipe that drains about a quarter of the area of the city onto the beach. That, after the municipality made efforts to clean out the sewer system ahead of the rain.

The researchers, Galia Pasternak of the University of Haifa’s School of Marine Sciences and members of the research and education group EcoOcean Israel, found 2,100 pieces of garbage in an area of 3,750 square meters on both sides of the drainage pipe.

“This is a beach that is usually clean and the city cleans it regularly,” Pasternak said. “After the rain it was simply filthy.”

Among the garbage were 656 disposable dishes and food packages, 554 plastic bags and 102 plastic bottles

“We also found much construction waste, which shows that workers and contractors throw these items into the city sewer system,” Pasternak said.

A great deal of garbage was probably swept out to sea and therefore not found.

Drainage water that reaches the sea also contains oils, fuels and soot, making the garbage a significant source of marine pollution.

Swimmers and surfers at Tel Aviv beaches complained of pollution, including animal carcasses in the sea, during Sukkot, as well as after earlier rainstorms.

According to the environmental group Tzalul, the Tel Aviv municipality is not doing what is necessary to clean the drainage system and has lodged a complaint with Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai.

“Everybody knows that it rains during Sukkot and after the long summer months, the municipal drainpipes need to be cleaned, “ Tzalul director Maya Yakobs said. “The Environmental Protection Ministry asked the authorities to clean, and yet, shockingly, in retrospect, the first rain swept a murky wave of pollution, animal carcasses and dangerous materials onto the beaches and no one warned the public.”

The Tel Aviv municipality said in response that “the first rain always washes the streets and sweeps away garbage with it. It happens every year.”

The city also said that, together with the local water corporation, it had checked channels and drainpipe openings and had cleaned them. “The city is investing many resources in caring for the beaches and they are considered to excel in cleanliness according to Environmental Protection Ministry indexes,” the municipality said.

“Marine pollution cannot be completely prevented after the first rain, but it can be reduced,” Pasternak said. Measures that can be taken include screens to prevent the passage of garbage or pits next to drainage openings in which some of the garbage would accumulate instead of being swept out to sea, Pasternak said.

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