Going Green / Israel's Toxic Waste Clean-up Expected to Cost NIS 4 Billion

Parts of Ramat Hovav, Hiriya dumps being turned into parks.

The Ramat Hovav dangerous-waste disposal site, once clogged with barrels of dangerous chemicals, is rapidly emptying out, with part of it already being transformed into a park. The state is grappling with several large-scale clean-up operations throughout the country, with the costs expected to top NIS 4 billion.

In Ramat Hovav, the government company for environmental services that runs the site has begun the advanced phases of rehabilitation.

"The rehabilitation allows us to reuse the ground for waste treatment," said the company's director, Dr. Eitan Zilbiger. "It's also one of the conditions for building new military training bases in the area. Finally, we work at the site all the time, and we shouldn't be exposed to all these risks."

The cost of rehabilitating the site runs to NIS 300 million; it includes the getting rid of old barrels, most of which are sent to the site's incinerators, and the pumping out of pools of toxic liquids, which are sent to a plant that processes them into a hard, risk-free material.

Meanwhile, planning is underway for Israel's largest rehabilitation project - in the area currently housing Israel Military Industries' plants in Ramat Hasharon. The land there was contaminated over decades, and unless it's cleaned up, the Israel Lands Administration will not be able to proceed with Israel's most ambitious construction project, the building of 20,000 housing units.

The Tel Aviv District Planning and Building Committee recently began discussions on the plan, with the ILA's initial estimate of clean-up costs reaching NIS 2.3 billion. Other experts on rehabilitating land told Haaretz that the operation would cost half as much, not including cleaning up groundwater, which could cost several hundred million shekels.

Meanwhile, rehabilitation work continues on the giant Hiriya landfill, destined to become part of the giant Ariel Sharon Park, which will start in southern Tel Aviv. There rehabilitation is expected to cost NIS 250 million, with some funds already transferred by the government and some donated by the Bracha Fund.

The symbolic Kishon

One of the best-known symbols of pollution in Israel, the Kishon Stream near Haifa, also faces a long, expensive and complex rehabilitation process, which will focus on the pollutants accumulated on the riverbed. Yesterday the Haifa District Planning and Building Committee endorsed a plan with a budget of NIS 210 million to clear sludge from the Kishon. The rehabilitation plan is due to be approved by the government in the coming months.

The plan, pushed by Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan, proposes the digging of a new route for the stream for the stretch that passes near the refineries. The original route would then be cleaned by a specially built plant, which would process the sludge using biological processes. In the end, the entire area would become a park to be managed by the Nature and Parks Authority.

The Environmental Protection Ministry and the company Haifa Chemicals are currently in dispute over who should fund the cleaning process, with the ministry demanding NIS 22 million and the firm offering a significantly lower sum.