Polluted Soil to Be Treated at Israeli Air Force Base

Experts react with shock to decision as base has no infrastructure to take in such soil

Israeli Air Force C-130J during an Israeli commando drill in Cyprus, June 2017

In an unusual move, the Environmental Protection Ministry recently approved the transfer of polluted soil containing residues of fuel sludge to a military base as part of an experiment in the treatment of polluted soil. This is the first time contaminated land has been transferred to an Israel Defense Forces base for treatment.

The soil, which comes from the Ashdod refinery owned by the Paz company, will be treated at the Hatzor Air Force base. The private company LDD will set up a facility on the base that uses high temperatures that cause fuel particles to evaporate. The operation of the facility is a pilot project aimed at checking the efficacy of the technology. The Defense Ministry said, however, that the pilot will be delayed somewhat “due to the administrative differences that arose regarding the manner of implementing the pilot.”

Contaminated soil is generally treated at designated sites, like the national waste disposal site at Neot Hovav or the landfill site at Mishor Rotem in the Negev. Experts in the field reacted with shock to the ministry’s decision, especially since the treatment is being entrusted to two private entrepreneurs on a military base that has no infrastructure for taking in such soil.

The approval was conditioned on limiting the quantity of soil to 1,000 tons and to finishing the treatment within three months. It is also subject to installing means to deal with air emissions, the installation of infrastructure to prevent ground pollution along with control and monitoring procedures. According to the Environment Ministry, the facility will be in an enclosed area far from where the soldiers operate, and will pose no risk to either the soldiers or the environment. It added that the soil treatment will use technology that has been proven successful in other OECD countries.

The ministry said it was encouraging new ways to treat affected soil rather than trucking it to landfills, in order to find ways to expedite the rehabilitation of the IDF and Israel Military Industries facilities that are being evacuated from the center of the country.