Israeli Factory Agrees to Stop Using Certain Hazardous Chemicals

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A pipe and storage drums at the Sarafei Carmel chemical plant, Atlit, May 2016.
A pipe and storage drums at the Sarafei Carmel chemical plant, Atlit, May 2016. Credit: Zafrir Rinat

A factory in the north has agreed to stop using chemicals such as benzyl chloride, which caused breathing difficulties, vomiting and burning eyes in local people after a leak in June 2014.

Under the compromise following a class-action suit, the Sarafei Carmel adhesives plant in the northern town of Atlit will not admit wrongdoing but will pay 360,000 shekels ($95,000) in compensation. The deal was approved by the Haifa District Court.

After the leak, residents sued the factory, whose parent company is Carmel Chemicals, also located in Atlit. The residents were represented by a lawyer from the Union for Environmental Defense.

Under the compromise, the factory will stop using benzyl chloride starting in September. It also pledged to stop using three other hazardous materials including formaldehyde, a carcinogen. From September, these substances will no longer be on the list of toxins the factory has a permit to use.

Most of the compensation money will be deposited in an account that the Union for Environmental Defense can use for environmental work.

The factory also said it would pay the fees of the expert witnesses hired by the residents as well as attorneys’ fees the total cost amounts to 100,000 shekels.

Under the compromise, an expert representing the residents will be able to examine the factory’s list of permitted toxins and inspect the factory annually for compliance.

Sarafei Carmel is located near the Atlit train station, not far from a residential area. In recent years, Atlit residents have been fighting to have the plant closed entirely, even before the chemical leak. In a class action six years ago, Carmel Chemicals was required to pay 450,000 shekels in compensation.

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