For First Time, Ministry Maps Pollution Black Spots in Central Israel

An Environmental Protection Ministry report says contaminated soil in large areas of the Dan region includes carcinogens and other materials harmful to the nervous system and the body's hormonal systems. Some of the pollutants emanate from the soil as gases.

Some of the most sought-after properties in the center of the country, says the report, exhibit serious soil contamination and groundwater pollution, making testing and surveys essential.

Some of the areas will need to be shielded before they can be built upon or inhabited. The ministry says there are neighborhoods where residents must ventilate their basements if they are used for work or play to prevent dangerous exposure to pollutants from the soil.

The ministry prepared the report to propose ways of dealing with the pollution during planning and zoning processes, where building plans could be completed without relating to the pollution issues. There are already 137 polluted sites noted in the Dan region, though many more sites have not been tested.

The main sources of pollution are factories for metal plating, military industries, gas stations and underground storage sites for waste and hazardous materials. Today, there are only 40 factories left that plate metal, but these still use poisonous and carcinogenic metals and materials. There are 17 old waste sites that operated without proper drainage or sealing.

Garages also cause considerable pollution. The three centers worst centers of soil contamination in the region are the Holon industrial area, the Israel Military Industries complex in Ramat Hasharon and the strip where factories and workshops once marked the route of the Ayalon Highway where Tel Aviv borders on Ramat Gan.

The ground at 90 percent of the gas stations examined in the Tel Aviv region is seriously contaminated from leaks of fuel and other materials. A third have contaminated groundwater. The Environmental Protection Ministry is advancing a law dealing with contaminated soil, but has decided not to wait for its passage and is already providing recommendations on how to deal with such pollution.

The ministry proposes that every building plan in areas suspected of being contaminated based on ministry maps, should be handled in a special procedure. This will include determining whether a special survey and testing is needed, and if so how to handle the pollution.