3,000 in Safed Left Without Water After Diesel Fuel Contaminates Supply

Fuel truck driver mistakenly attached tanker's hose to water intake nozzle, leading to 1,800 apartments, as well as the city's courthouse, fire and police stations having their water cut off.

Safed residents filled up four-liter plastic bags with water from a water tanker in the city's Cna'an neighborhood and lined them up in a row last night, preparing to deliver them to their elderly neighbors.

The plastic bags were distributed by the Peleg Hagalil water company to help residents collect water from the tanks that it, along with the Safed municipality, set out on the streets on Tuesday while the Israel Water Authority is cleaning out the 2,000 liters of diesel fuel that a truck driver introduced into the water supply.

Safed residents - Yaron Kaminsky - Dec. 14, 2010
Yaron Kaminsky

Some 1,800 apartments in Safed, as well as the city's courthouse, fire and police stations and the immigrant absorption center, had their water cut off yesterday after a police officer trying to make coffee complained that the liquid coming out of the tap was brown and smelled like diesel fuel.

The cutoff affects an estimated 3,000 residents.

The incident was caused when the driver of a diesel fuel delivery truck who was bringing fuel to the Cna'an absorption center mistakenly attached the tanker's hose to the water intake nozzle.

One resident said he planned to sue the Water Authority over the shortage.

"I pay the authority, and I [expect to] get service from them," said Shmulik Bakshi.

Bakshi said he was about to go to his in-laws in Carmiel to take a shower.

Menahem, a Safed resident standing next to a shopping cart filled with bottles and bags of water, wasn't planning to wait any longer for a shower.

He said he was hoping to collect enough water to give his six children their first shower in three days.

The Health Ministry has issued a statement warning residents and workers in the Cna'an neighborhood not to use the water in their faucets for drinking, cooking or bathing until further notice.

The municipality said yesterday it was quite likely that as of today, residents will be allowed to use the water for showering but not for drinking or cooking.

Several families said they couldn't wait.

"The kids need to shower, and there are a lot of kids, thank God," said Safed resident Yoni Hen. Many of the apartments in the neighborhood, which is 85 percent ultra-Orthodox, house large families.

Hen said the shortage has shown him how important water is, though it is easy to take for granted.

"You suddenly realize the value of water," he said. "In day-to-day life, if you want water you open the tap. Now you get up in the morning and want to wash your face, brush your teeth. ... It's the most basic thing, and you realize that you can't."

Hen also said he was thankful there was no water shortage for toilet use.

"I have to say that the municipality got organized fast, and they gave out water bottles in the schools," Hen continued.

"We're eight people in the house and it's hard. We can't shower or do laundry, and of course, we can't drink or cook with the water."

"We're lucky that we can still use the bathroom at home," he said. "There's no danger there."

All the same, the police station in the neighborhood set up chemical toilets, to be on the safe side.