About 8 percent of the water in Israel's coastal aquifer, which supplies drinking water for residents of the country's highly populated Mediterranean coast, is polluted and therefore cannot be used for human consumption.
According to data released this week by the Water Authority, the pollution, which is from industrial sources, has affected about 80 square kilometers (30 square miles) of land over the aquifer.
Nearly 200 water drilling sites – or about a quarter of all of the well drilling sites in the country, have had to be shut down due to the pollution, Guy Reshef, who heads the Water Authority's water quality division, said this week. On the positive side, the Water Authority and the Environmental Protection Ministry have managed to rehabilitate 50 drilling locations in recent years.
The largest single source of industrial pollution is from sites where Israel Military Industries, now known as IMI, has operated in the past. Pollution is only in the early stages of being addressed at many of these locations. In Herzliya's Nof Yam neighborhood, for example, work on assessing the risk to the environment and to the health of the public has not yet been completed. That, in turn, is delaying plans for construction of thousands of housing units.
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One of the dangers of ground pollution is the leaching of carcinogenic substances into the air, which is a particular threat to the ground floor of buildings and to parking lots.
IMI still has ongoing operations in Ramat Hasharon, where ground pollution has infiltrated ground water and required the closure of well drilling sites in Herzliya and Tel Aviv, Reshef said. As a result, the Water Authority has pumped polluted water out to prevent the spread of the pollution to other drilling sites.