Army Bases Causing Pollution in West Bank

Sewage from 58 bases flows directly into environment or into cesspools, where it is liable to contaminate groundwater.

Municipal Environmental Associations of Judea and Samaria

More than half of all army installations over the Green Line pollute the environment with sewage that does not reach a treatment plant, according to information the army has given to the ecological group Green Now.

The army provided this information in response to Green Now’s petition to the High Court of Justice asking that the army deal with the sewage pollution it creates. The High Court of Justice decided to dismiss the petition this week, after government representatives told the court that sewage treatment had begun in the Beit El region.

Green Now submitted a petition to the High Court of Justice four years ago against the army’s failure to treat the effluent of the army bases in the Beit El area. The petition also pointed out that the army should be treating its sewage in the rest of its installations over the Green Line. As part of the legal proceedings, Green Now officials asked the army for specific details about its treatment of sewage. Several months ago the army provided the information, which includes a list of 123 installations. According to the list, the effluent from 58 of them flows directly into the environment or into cesspits, from which it is liable to trickle into the groundwater. In the remaining cases, the effluent is treated at sewage-treatment plants. Still, in many cases the treatment is minimal and does not approach the standards required of local authorities and factories.

The army promised four years ago to carry out a multi-year master plan for rectifying the sewage-treatment situation on the various bases. The information that the army provided shows that in many cases, the plan still has not been carried out. For example, effluent flows freely from the Ba’al Hatzor army base into the environment, and this is also true of the large Border Police base in Beit Horon. The army installation on Mount Gerizim, a place of religious and historical significance, also allows untreated sewage to flow directly into the environment.

The IDF Spokesperson’s Office commented, “The army is in the process of implementing the government’s decision from 2010, which initiated a 5.5-year plan during which army bases, including bases in Judea and Samaria, will be connected to the regional sewage system. The process is taking place with no connection to the aforementioned petition, which was submitted after the plan was drafted. The IDF is working according to the priorities set for the plan to carry it out fully, and continues to work for environmental protection on all the bases.”

It should be noted that recently, the Environmental Protection Ministry began an effort to have some of Israel’s environmental-protection laws applied over the Green Line so that it would be able to act against polluters. But army officials opposed the move, demanding that the laws not be applied fully to army installations. Recently, a compromise was worked out according to which the laws would apply at first only to civilian installations and later on, a formula would be found that would allow them to be enforced on military installations as well.