Environment Ministry Fails to Find Guilty Parties in Yarkon Pollution Scandal

A year after the Environmental Protection Ministry said it would be looking closely at last year's serious pollution incident in the Yarkon River and would prosecute those responsible, the ministry said last week it would take no legal action against any of those involved.

The ministry made the statement in a letter responding to the request of a private citizen for an update on the matter.

The pollution was caused by a fire about a year ago at a furniture factory in Hod Hasharon, which spread toward the nearby Sano factory, where large amounts of cleaning materials are stored. The water used to put out the fire became mixed with the cleaning materials at the factory, and spread toward the river, killing off the fish population.

The request for the update was made by Tel Aviv resident Ehud Finkelstein. Several of the bodies directly involved in the incident, such as the Yarkon Drainage Authority, did not even know yesterday about the ministry's decision.

The coordinator of the investigation of the incident at the Environmental Protection Ministry, Gidi Mazor, wrote Finkelstein that the fire-fighting efforts brought so much water into the Sano factory that its system for dealing with mishaps was overwhelmed and some of the cleaning materials were swept away in the water. The materials were channeled into a nearby stream and dammed there by the Yarkon Drainage Authority, Mazor wrote, but he did not say how, despite the damming, large quantities of the cleaning materials reached a waste treatment plant.

Mazor wrote that the analysis of the information collected "reveals that the circumstances of the incident were very complex and not unambiguous. Under such circumstances, there is no evidence against any of the bodies involved that could lead to the formulation of a legal suit."

Mazor added that following the incident, the ministry had decided to conduct a comprehensive risk assessment survey in the Yarkon River basin, which would include practical recommendations to reduce the threat to the river in the future.

The head of the Yarkon Drainage Authority, David Pergament, said yesterday that the river was still recovering. "This year we had to do more pesticide treatments against mosquitoes because there were no fish to prey on them, and in this sense we've been set back 10 years," he said.

"We have stocked the stream with tilapia and mosquito fish, and little by little life is returning to the stream," Pergament said. He added the soon-to-be-upgraded Kfar Sava-Hod Hasharon waste treatment plant would also improve the situation of the river.