State Shuts Down Haifa Chemicals

Environmental Protection Ministry voids Haifa Chemical’s toxins permit because faulty maintenance; gives company 14 days to vacate toxic materials from site.

More than two months after a strike halted production at Haifa Chemicals, the Environmental Protection Ministry yesterday shut down the company on the grounds that it poses a hazard to the environment because of faulty maintenance.

The ministry voided Haifa Chemical’s toxins permit and issued an injunction requiring the company to vacate toxic materials from the site within 14 days under the Hazardous Substances Law.

The roughly 1,000 tons of substances that the company is required to remove include ammonia, phosphoric acid, nitric acid and organic solvents.

The decision to close down the plant followed a July 10 hearing on Haifa Chemicals by Shlomo Katz, head of the Haifa district environment office.

Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan said the decision to void the company’s permits was made after Haifa Chemicals violated the terms of its permit, as well as violating the law regarding storage of hazardous chemicals. In addition, Haifa Chemicals did not adequately prevent the emission of hazardous substances or handle its toxic waste according to the rules, Erdan said.

Haifa Chemicals may not resume operations until a third party from an unaffiliated company declares that the company has corrected all violations and poses no further danger, the minister said.

The ministry is also demanding that Haifa Chemicals have a third-party company conduct a risk analysis. Only after that will the ministry lay down guidelines for reopening.

Haifa Chemicals has not been productive for more than 70 days, and routine maintenance of many plant facilities has suffered. Representatives of the Environmental Protection Ministry’s Haifa district office have been visiting the site to inspect for maintenance problems. Erdan said it is the state’s responsibility to ensure that maintenance is carried out and that the plant does not pose a hazard to the environment, its own workers and the residents of the area.