High Cancer Risk From TA-area Pollution

Soil and water pollution has become an increasingly serious health hazard in recent decades.

Industrial contamination of groundwater in the Dan region puts residents of Tel Aviv, Ramat Gan, Givatayim and other cities at an increased risk of cancer, a recent Water Authority survey shows.

Soil and water pollution has become an increasingly serious health hazard in recent decades, and must be addressed immediately, the study says. Otherwise, the pollution will contaminate at least 30 more wells over the next 30 years.

The study was conducted by the American consulting firm Louis Berger and the Israeli Tahal Group. They tested several spots in the Dan region where factories, including weapons manufacturing plants, had been located.

These plants emitted large quantities of carcinogens, which filtered into the groundwater and evaporated into the air.

Severe pollution already exists in places such as the Nahlat Yitzhak neighborhood and Arvei Nahal Street, on the border of Tel Aviv and Givatayim, along Tel Aviv's Yigal Alon Street, and in the neighborhood of Revivim.

The study assessed the risk posed by carcinogens such as trichloroethylene, whose fumes filter through cracks and openings into basements and from there, to other building parts.

Trichloroethylene and other pollutants found in Dan region groundwater not only cause cancer, but damage the nervous and reproductive systems.

Risk levels were hundreds if not thousands of times higher than the level set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which allows for no more than one person out of 1 million to fall ill due to pollutants. The danger is posed by prolonged exposure.

Surveys conducted at the former Amkor plant site on Tel Aviv's Yigal Alon Street found trichloroethylene concentrations 280 times higher than that permitted in drinking water. Pollution 80 times permitted levels was found at Israel Military Industries' former plant site on the city's Arvei Nahal Street.

The former IMI plant site in Nahlat Yitzhak constitutes a health hazard due to two pollutants dispersed into the groundwater and the air. "This requires immediate action," the risk assessment report says.

Water Authority officials have found over the past two years several polluted groundwater sites in Holon's industrial area, including contamination caused by toxic metals such as chrome. The authority has recently completed, with the Netherlands' financial assistance, an experimental project to purify a well polluted by chrome.

Three months ago, the authority's head of water quality Sara Elhanani reported the risk assessment findings to the Interior Ministry's Tel Aviv District head Gila Oron.

These findings mean that "even if a building with adequate measures to prevent the penetration of volatile groundwater materials is constructed, the pollution will continue to spread to nearby, non-protected buildings, unless we treat the groundwater pollution," she wrote.

All the protection measures in new buildings cannot ensure complete protection over time, she wrote.

Recent studies predict the pollution in the Dan region will continue to spread and will penetrate at least 31 of the 40 wells in use. The studies recommend pumping 18 million cubic meters annually to stabilize the groundwater reserve. They also intend to recommend ways of treating the pollution.