Technical Mishap at Hadassah Hospital Causes Sewage Swamp in Jerusalem

'Hadassah doesn’t just develop medication for infections, it’s also creating infections to treat in the future,' says local resident

Hadassah University Hospital, Ein Karem, Jerusalem.
Shiran Granot

A mechanical problem at Hadassah University Hospital, Ein Karem, on the western edge of Jerusalem, has resulted in large quantities of raw sewage flowing into a nearby dry riverbed.

The mishap was apparently the result of a sewage line collapse in the hospital’s west wing several weeks ago, which caused sewage to flow continuously into the riverbed, creating a large swamp not far from homes in the Ein Karem neighborhood.

The outpouring has closed a popular hiking trail, and according to area residents, has also caused a mosquito problem and a lingering stench. Residents of Ein Karem claim that they notified the hospital about the issue several weeks ago, but the hospital’s response says that it was only made aware of the issue in the past week, and that it has begun repairing the sewer line.

Last week, the hospital discovered damage to a sewage line serving the hospital and other area institutions, including a nearby mall, hotels, and Hebrew University schools, the hospital’s statement said.

“A state of emergency was declared at Hadassah, following which professional engineering crews have been working to repair the damage. The contractor who was hired to do the repairs has been working hard to immediately install a new bypass sewer line and a temporary collecting pool to prevent the seepage of the sewage into the ground [and] harm to natural plant growth,” the statement read. 

The hospital added that the work will be completed quickly, that it is being undertaken in coordination with the Environmental Protection Ministry, and that the Health Ministry and Jerusalem Municipality have been kept informed.

But Haim Tal, an Ein Karem resident, said he had noticed the sewage swamp beginning to form three months ago on a morning bicycle ride. Two weeks later, he said, he passed by the area again and saw that the sewage pond had expanded.

“I called Hadassah, I informed the maintenance department and I tried to reach the administration. The administration told me they would get back to me, but they didn’t,” Tal said.

During that period, Tal added, he was aware of at least 15 calls to Hadassah from residents.

“It looks like we’ve got a new start-up here,” he said. “Hadassah doesn’t just develop medication for infections, it’s also creating infections to treat in the future.”

The Environmental Protection Ministry said in a statement that it received the reports of the broken sewer line over than a week ago, and the hospital has “taken responsibility for dealing with the problem based on the ministry’s requirements.”

Nevertheless, the ministry said that several days after the problem was reported, after the hospital did not immediately deal with the issue, its Green Police enforcement division fined the hospital. Ministry personnel and representatives from the Israel Nature and Parks Authority have been monitoring progress on the repairs, and “will use all of the authority at its disposal to see to it that the problem is dealt with and that the affected area is restored to its prior condition.”