Overflowing Haifa Sewage Pipe Makes Cruddy Wave-riding for Israeli Surfers

Surfers in Haifa say winter rains are turning the water pretty gnarly - and not in the good way. Each winter, especially following big storms, the main sewage line close to the surfers' beach there gets flooded with rain waters and the refuse overflows out into the sea.

This happens when dozens of surfers are on the water, benefiting from what are considered the best weather conditions for riding the waves.

The surfers complain about the bad smell, the damage that the sewage is causing to the ecosystem and their health.

In response the municipal authorities have said that their multi-year plan, at a cost of NIS 250 million for the upgrading of the city sewage system, is underway, and will include a new, modern control center, as well as new pumping stations and the replacement of the main pipes.

The city's topography, on the side of the mountain and sloping toward the sea, exacerbates the problem during stormy days. In the past two weeks it is estimated that 40 percent of the average annual rainfall have fallen on the city, causing the sewage system to overflow, and as a result, letting untreated sewage flow into the sea.

In the case of the main sewage line, near the surfers' beach, the sewage simply flows into the sea.

"The stormy days are the best for surfing. But it is also on these days that the sewage spills into the sea and makes things terrible," said Amir Weizman, a 20 year veteran surfer and sea photographer.

"Every time there is a storm it is impossible to surf or to work, because you surf with plastic bags, feces, tampons, and terrible smells. When you get out of the water your skin itches, and there is a rash. It is as if you are swimming in a pool of acid," he said.

The surfers' beach is considered to be the best of its kind in Israel, and one of the better beaches in the Mediterranean for surfing.

"The waves rise here, and the mountains guide the winds toward a sharp and narrow bend, making the waves break perfectly," Weizman said. "There is a world championship for sailing and the municipality invests tens of thousands of shekels, but the infrastructure is still bad."

He says that every time there is a storm, municipal workers rush to the area to block the cement pit, until the next storm comes around.