Central Israel to Stop Dumping Sewage Sludge Into Mediterranean Sea

The treated sewage, which has been dumped into the sea for decades and is considered one of the greatest pollutants in the Mediterranean, will be turned into fertilizer.

The new facility that will be used to turn the sludge into fertilizer, September 15, 2016.
Zafrir Rinat

After decades of dumping treated sewage into the Mediterranean, an environmental infrastructure association said on Wednesday it would stop doing so by the end of the year.

Igudan, also known as the Dan Regional Association for Environmental Infrastructure, said it had begun preparations to stop the flow into the sea, following a decision by the Environmental Protection Ministry nine years ago. The sludge will be turned into fertilizer.

In 2015, the Dan Region Wastewater Treatment Plant (Shafdan) channeled 39,000 tons of sludge into the sea, the ministry said in a report last month. It said the sludge was one of the greatest causes of pollution in the Mediterranean.

Igudan CEO Mark Okon said scientists had begun to prepare the bacteria that will be used to break down the sludge. The process releases methane gas, which will be used to produce energy. At the next stage the sludge will be dried and become compost.

“We’ll give the farmers 450 tons of dry material free,” Okon said.

He said Igudan’s permit to convey sludge into the sea from the wastewater treatment facility at Rishon Letzion would expire in a few weeks, but the association was likely to receive another extension to complete its preparation for the sludge treatment. “In any case we’re obliged to stop the flow by the end of the year,” he said.

The environmental association Zalul has criticized Igudan for not stopping the sludge flow into the sea earlier. In response to Okon’s statement, Zalul CEO Maya Jacobs said the public had “heard many explanations and excuses for the delays so far. Until we see the sludge stop flowing into the sea, Igudan remains the sea’s biggest polluter.”

Shafdan is Israel’s largest facility for wastewater used for irrigation, currently supplying 130 million cubic meters for farming. Okon said it plans to increase that number to 200 million following Israel’s expected population increase, which will lead to an increase in wastewater.

Treating the sludge on land will not solve the pollution problem entirely, as it contains heavy metals and medication residue that cannot be eliminated in the treatment process. Igudan plans to set up another facility that will enable the reduction of dehydrated sludge; it will also be used as fuel for coal-fired power stations, Okon said.