Evrona Nature Reserve in southern Israel is set to reopen to the public, four months after it was shut down for cleanup and over concerns of air pollution, due to a massive oil spill from a pipeline belonging to the Eilat-Ashkelon Pipeline Company. The Environmental Protection Ministry made the announcement on Thursday, saying the decision was prompted by the results of recent air-quality tests at the site, indicating the absence of air pollution.
The director of the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, Shaul Goldstein, said there has been a sharp, steady drop in air pollution in the area. “The latest air samples tested by the Environmental Protection Ministry 10 days ago did not show irregular amounts of pollutants. For four months, the Evrona reserve was closed to visitors due to fears of air pollution, but today it was reopened.”
Deputy Environmental Protection Minister Ofir Akunis added that efforts to clean up the reserve will continue. Sources in the ministry said it would take months to complete the work.
On December 4 of last year, an estimated 5 million liters of crude oil leaked into the reserve, causing one of the worst environmental disasters in Israeli history. The spill occurred near the community of Be’er Ora, some 20 kilometers north of Eilat, during maintenance work ahead of the construction of a new airport in Timna.
The Eilat-Ashkelon Pipeline Company initially under-reported, by about half, the quantity of oil involved in the spill, admitting only a few days later the actual amount of the spill. A criminal investigation was launched into the incident, which led to a massive clean-up operation in the reserve.