04/13/2011 19:21

Friends of the Earth Middle East slam request from Environmental Protection Ministry to dump wastewater into streams and sea.

The environmental organization Friends of the Earth Middle East slammed the Water Authority on Wednesday for seeking permission from the Environmental Protection Ministry earlier this week to dump 500,000 cubic meters of treated wastewater into the country’s streams.

“The low purification level of most of the treated wastewater in Israel is an ongoing oversight, and now the streams will suffer from the influx of water,” said Yuval Arbel, vice president of the organization. “The release of half a million cubic meters of treated wastewater at this purification level is likely to cause severe damage to flora and fauna, which are undergoing a long and challenging rehabilitation process, in addition to the threat it might pose by seeping into the groundwater.”

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According to Water Authority spokesman Uri Schor, such large-scale dumping is necessary because March and the beginning of April were much rainier and cooler than usual, meaning farmers have had little need for the wastewater.

The Water Authority said that because wastewater reservoirs are overflowing, it’s seeking “to prevent serious damage in the area,” which Schor said would more than likely occur should the water remain where it is.

Although the environmental group criticized the planned dumping of what it said would be “half a million cubic meters of treated wastewater,” the Water Authority insisted it would in fact be a mixture of treated wastewater and rainwater.

“They would be right if that extra water would be coming every year or every second year, Schor said in response to criticism about the authority’s perceived lack of readiness for this year’s rain pattern. But this kind of a cycle appears “every six or seven years,” he said, meaning there is no point in planning an additional collection system.

Friends of the Earth Middle East’s Arbel said that if Israel’s treated wastewater met higher purification standards, releasing some of it into streams in measured increments would be acceptable.

“In order to ease the burden on the reservoirs,” he said, “it would be preferable to release flood waters from reservoirs in the same quantities because the quality of the water is better and will not cause damage to the designated streams.”