Ministry Says Nahariya Should Not Grow Until Asbestos Is Removed

'The cleanup must be completed before issuing any new building permits,' Environmental Protection Ministry insists.

Clearing up asbestes in betset beach, near Nahariya in northern Israel, 2011.
Yaron Kaminsky

The Environmental Protection Ministry is recommending that no new building permits be issued for northern Nahariya because the area is contaminated with asbestos. It said new residents should not be brought into the area because of the danger posed by the asbestos.

The ministry emphasized that the recommendation will remain in force until all the asbestos is found and removed from the area, where 1,500 new residential units are planned.

For five years the ministry has been conducting a cleanup operation, dubbed Green Path, to remove asbestos from communities in the Western Galilee.

To date 291 areas have been cleared of friable asbestos that had been manufactured at the Eitanit factory in Nahariya, which closed in 1997. It was sold cheaply to local residents, who scattered it — as recommended by the company — in gardens, orchards and on dirt paths, in addition to using it extensively in greenhouses, chicken coops, schools and homes.

Eitani Construction Products and the state have jointly allocated 231 million shekels ($59.4 million) for the cleanup, which is scheduled for completion this year. Green Path is focusing on the northern parts of Nahariya, where the Eitanit factory was located. Plans have been drawn up for several residential projects adjacent to Achziv Beach and in the North Rassco area. A boardwalk along the beach is also planned. At least one hot spot of absbestos contamination has been found in the area, in a place called Medinat Hayeladim.

At a session of the Green Path steering committee 10 days ago, members heard about a tour some had taken of various parts of Nahariya, including the area where the Eitanit plant was located. Asbestos waste was seen at several sites, including in a layer of topsoil exposed to the air, which poses a risk of toxic fibers spreading throughout the area.

Based on these findings, the committee decided to conduct additional cleanup activities in the region.

“The fundamental position of the ministry, which has been expressed and recorded a number of times in the past, is not to bring additional people to the contaminated area, including workers who would be doing groundwork and construction,” the committee wrote in its summary. “The cleanup must be completed before issuing any new building permits.”

Last month, the ministry department responsible for dealing with asbestos announced that as a condition for issuing building permits for construction near Achziv Beach, there must be a survey of the areas abutting the area and that no asbestos can be found within 100 meters of the planned construction site.

But attorney Orly Ariav, who heads the environment and community section at the environmental advocacy organization Adam Teva V’Din, said that there would still be a risk of asbestos fibers being dispersed into populated areas.

“Because the asbestos commonly found near the plan is the most dangerous and volatile type, even cleaning it at a greater distance can under certain conditions lead to the blowing of asbestos fibers into populated areas,” she said. “Therefore, it is the municipality’s responsibility to prevent the development of new residential neighborhoods and the introduction of a new population to the areas near the Eitanim plant and the areas it owns and have yet to be cleaned, and so it must rule out the plan to build near Achziv Beach and North Rassco.”

In a response, the Nahariya municipality said, “The ministry’s recommendations were only received a few days ago and in any case the policy of the Nahariya municipality is complete cooperation with the Environmental Protection Ministry, the administration of the Green Path project and the steering committee that heads it. Recently the project to clean the asbestos in the northern section, from Ben Gaon Street northward, began. This cleanup project will in the future allow occupancy of the new neighborhood near Achziv Beach.

“The municipality will act in coordination with the Environment Ministry to deal with additional parts of north Nahariya and enable infrastructure development with an eye toward building permits for the new neighborhoods. Building permits for erecting structures in the new neighborhood are subject to the Environmental Protection Ministry’s approval, which is why they have yet to be issued.”