Israel Launches Criminal Investigation Into Water Treatment Execs Over Sewage Spill

Raw sewage from treatment plant north of Tel Aviv is going into the Yarkon River; the officials responsible say the plant gets four times its design capacity

Dead fish in the Yarkon River after a sewage spill, Apr. 30, 2017.
Ofer Vaknin

The Environmental Protection Ministry said on Wednesday that its enforcement unit is launching a criminal investigation against the heads of the Southeastern Sharon Municipal Association for Sewage for the ongoing illegal pumping of raw sewage into the Yarkon River basin.

The ministry said the investigation followed warnings and a summons to a hearing that was sent to the associations directors, and that the association will be fined the maximum amount allowed by law — 6,000 shekels ($1,662) for each day the sewage flow continues.

The Water Authority had permitted the association to direct treated sewage into the Yarkon, but over the past few days it has pumped raw sewage into the river. Fish are dying in the river but theyre not all dead. The damage varies according to the amount of water flowing in the river, David Pergament, head of the Water Authority, said.

Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai on Thursday asked Environmental Protection Minister Zeev Elkin to act urgently to stop the flow of sewage into the Yarkon. Huldai, who is also chairman of the Yarkon River Authority, wrote that the agency felt helpless in the face of the damage being done. We see how our achievements in cleaning the Yarkon and the hard work invested by all the partners is being lost.

The municipal association responded: As directed by government ministries, the waste treatment plant is now dealing with four times the sewage it was planned for. The huge quantity of waste and its makeup, which is from towns that do not pretreat their waste, resulted in blockages in the southern line leading to the plant, reducing the flow by 50 to 60 percent. The association said it was cleaning out the line as required by the ministry and the Water Authority.