Stench in Tel Aviv as Poorly Treated Waste Flows Into Yarkon River

Ongoing lack of preparedness of the waste treatment system has compromised the river’s rehabilitation, also harming animal life.

The Yarkon River, into which poorly purified sewage from the Sharon area has been channeled, March 20, 2017.
Moti Milrod

For a few weeks now poorly purified sewage has been channeled into the Yarkon River because treatment plants in the Sharon area were already working at full capacity. As a result, pollution has reached the river, impairing rehabilitation in which tens of millions of shekels have been invested in recent years. The pollution has reached Tel Aviv, where the stink is palpable and animals living in the stream have been harmed.

The source of the waste is in sewage treatment plants run by the southeastern Sharon association of municipalities for sewage, which is under the aegis of the Darom Hasharon Regional Council. This is the second year in a row that these facilities have channeled poorly purified waste into the Yarkon because they could not process such large quantities themselves.

The Water Authority approved the channeling of the sewage into the river. “This pollution reaches the river for as long as the rainy season continues and farmers don’t use the purified waste water for irrigation,” said Yarkon River Authority head David Pergament.

In the winter, some of the waste that is not purified is channeled to reservoirs, and when those are full, the waste is channeled to the Yarkon. What made the situation worse is that sewage also leaked into the river due to a breakdown in a sewage pipe in the area.

According to Pergament, immediate steps could have been taken to improve the quality of the waste before it was channeled to the Yarkon, which would have mitigated some of the damage. The reservoirs could also have been cleaned before winter, to make more room.

Water quality in the Yarkon had been improving in recent years after waste channeled to it from cities like Kfar Sava and Hod Hasharon was purified to a higher degree. As a result, animal life in the stream had begun to recover. But the ongoing lack of preparedness of the waste treatment system has compromised the river’s rehabilitation.

The Water Authority responded: “The channeling of low-quality treated waste to the river was caused by a lack of sufficient treatment of this waste by the producers of the waste, which conveys them to the treatment planted owned by the southeastern Sharon association of municipalities. The Water Authority and other government ministries have worked and continue to work with the producers of the waste to ensure upgrading of the plant in question and its suitability to the large quantities of waste and level of purification required by law.”

When the plant is upgraded and made to conform to the law, the Water Authority said, no more low-quality waste will be channeled to the river.

“At this point, instructions are given as needed to limit as much as possible the environmental damage, caused by failures in the waste treatment,” the authority said.

The southeastern Sharon municipal association for waste said: “The waste treatment plant is today treating four times the quantity than planned. That is because of the linkup to the waste collection system of Tira and Taibeh in Israeli territory and Qalqilyah in the Palestinian Authority. Before this, that waste was channeled directly into the streams.”

The association added that the Water Authority approved upgrading in January 2015 and work was “energetically underway to finish the upgrading as soon as possible.”