Nahal Ashalim in southern Israel is still suffering the aftereffects of last month’s acidic wastewater spill into the stream. Freshwater had to be pumped into the stream this week when environmentalists noticed a deterioration in the quality of the water and vegetation there.
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The environmental disaster occurred on June 30 when a holding pool collapsed at the nearby Rotem Amfert fertilizer plant, sending millions of cubic meters of acidic effluent into the streambed, situated west of the Dead Sea.
In recent days, employees from the Environmental Protection Ministry and the Israel Nature and Parks Authority noticed the deteriorating water quality and state of the vegetation at the reservoir on the slope of Nahal Ashalim, after the poisonous wastewaters flowed into the adjacent area and penetrated it. To help the flora recover, the freshwater was pumped into the reservoir from a water pipeline that passes nearby.
The area where the pollutants have accumulated is under the jurisdiction of the Dead Sea Works, which is planning to use lime to neutralize the acidic waste that flowed into the area. The lime and acids will sink to the bed of the reservoir, from where they can later be removed.
In the stream itself, officials have started to use freshwater to irrigate the acacia trees that were exposed to the pollutants and have been showing signs of distress.
Efforts are also continuing to pump the acidic wastewater out of the many small pools in the narrow ravine of the stream, known as the Maok. Several water-filled troughs have been placed near the ravine for wildlife, in a bid to stop it drinking from the polluted pools. Eight ibexes died from drinking the polluted water earlier this month.
Motion-activated cameras have been positioned near the troughs and they have shown that the area wildlife, including ibexes, are indeed using the troughs.
When the pumping is completed, the INPA plans bring a special pipe to stream large quantities of freshwater into the Maok, to see to what degree this water will be able to clean the stream of the pollutants that have accumulated in the streambed.
Since there has never been a pollution incident of this type anywhere in the world in such an environment, the professionals can’t assess how effective this plan might be.
Prof. Eilon Adar, a water expert and member of the professional company helping with the rehabilitation of the stream, noted that a very large quantity of sediment, containing various types of pollutants, is spread throughout Nahal Ashalim. These pollutants are liable to accumulate in the floodwaters during the winter and once again pollute the small pools, albeit at a lower concentration.
Adar noted that cleaning up all the slurry at the site is basically impossible.