Israeli Beach Closed Due to Pollution From West Bank Olive Oil Production

Industrial waste from Palestinian-administers areas has been particularly harmful recently due to a lack of rain.

Zafrir Rinat
Zafrir Rinat
A view of a polluted segment of the Alexander River in central Israel, October 2016.
A view of a polluted segment of the Alexander River in central Israel, October 2016.Credit: Courtesy of Nissim Almon
Zafrir Rinat
Zafrir Rinat

Sewage from West Bank areas administered by the Palestinian Authority has been polluting streams inside Israel for years.

Last week the problem led for the first time to a beach being closed in the Netanya area, near the mouth of the Alexander River.

The Health Ministry ordered the Beit Yannai beach shut on Thursday citing pollution by sewage spilling out from olive oil production plans in the Nablus region of the West Bank.

Water quality tests yielded no extraordinary finds but additional tests were ordered and the beach was shut through the weekend.

The olive harvest began this month and the processing plants in the Nablus area are streaming the liquid byproducts into natural streams. The sewage contains a high concentration of various pollutants. The sewage flows through Israel's Alexander River, and last week it polluted the area of a national park near Beit Yannai.

"This year there's a great olive harvest and therefore a great quantity of sewage," Nisim Almon, director of the Sharon region's drainage system.

"We absorb this sewage into the reservoir and release it when there are floods, so that they dissolve into the water. But last year there were no floods and the reservoir is full and cannot take in any further sewage. In addition there has been no rain and the olive press byproducts are not dissolving into the stream's waters, therefore the pollution is particularly significant," Almon said.

The Nature Authority says this sewage kills off a lot of animal life, and rehabilitation work done in the area goes down the drain. The authority has warned about this problem multiple times in the past.

Emek Hefer council head Rani Idan has asked Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to seek a solution to the issue.

Waste water treatment in the West Bank has been a contentious issue for decades. Palestinians and human rights groups have accused Israel of failing to see to the development of proper sewage removal systems and water supply in Palestinian-populated areas.

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