Air pollution levels in the Atarot industrial area in northern Jerusalem exceeded allowable limits on two-thirds of the days in 2016, reports the Environmental Protection Ministry based on the results of samples taken on site.
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The high level of tiny particulates comes from the factories in the area, says the ministry.
These tiny particles can penetrate the respiratory system and are particularly dangerous for certain groups, such as those with heart conditions, the elderly and pregnant women.
The Atarot industrial zone contains eight cement plants and five transfer stations for construction waste, three of which were in operation during the period when the pollution levels were measured. All these sites emit a high level of polluting dust.
The samples showed that pollution levels exceeded permissible levels on 221 days in 2016 in the Atarot area. The highest level measured was seven times the maximum level allowed during a single day.
All the cement plants have business licenses issued by the Jerusalem municipality. After the pollution levels were recorded, the Environmental Protection Ministry added additional and stricter rules for the factories, including adding further physical means to prevent dust emissions, such as building walls around storage sites and conveyor belts, as well as systems that wet down the dust to keep it from spreading.
The cement plants did not meet the deadlines for operating these new pollution control methods and were issued warnings and summoned for hearings before the filing of criminal charges. Enforcement actions were also taken against the transfer points for construction waste.
Because of the severity of the pollution levels, the Jerusalem District of the Environmental Protection Ministry will require similar physical solutions for the waste sites, steps which have not been taken anywhere else in Israel.
The Atarot industrial area does not have its own active management and the maintenance levels of the public spaces, roads and the factory yards is poor.