Environmental Protection Ministry imposes highly unusual and hefty fine on military for failing to remove hazardous material from southern base

Yoav Zitun
Published: 02.13.13

The Environmental Protection Ministry intends to impose a NIS 3.8 million (about $1 million) fine on the IDF over its failure to remove asbestos boards found near Nathan Base, which is adjacent to Beersheba, Ynet learned Wednesday.

The ministry said that the IDF was ordered to remove the hazardous material and given seven months to do so – but failed to comply.

The order was issued after ministry inspectors found the asbestos near the base, which houses hundreds of soldiers. The IDF was ordered to immediately begin work to remove it in order to protect the soldiers’ health.

This is the first time in which a government ministry plans to fine the military. The Environmental Protection Ministry said that the IDF has 30 days to pay the fine – or seek an Attorney General’s Office order reducing it.

“The asbestos hazard near the base is the result of a series of failures by the IDF, which dates back to 2011… In violation of the Asbestos Hazards Prevention Law of 1992, the IDF failed to immediately inform the ministry of the hazard and waited some six weeks,” the ministry said.

“According to the law, the removal of asbestos hazards must be done by ministry-approved contractors only. The IDF did so on its own – and partially at that – and by dislodging and dragging the planks, it in fact created a secondary hazard; placing the soldiers serving on the base at an even greater risk.”

Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan said that “It is inconceivable that IDF soldiers will be placed in harms way, health wise, while on base. While imposing a fine on the IDF is highly unusual, we will not allow the law to be ignored and lives put at risk.”

The IDF Spokesperson’s Unit said that “The military has been dealing with on-base asbestos hazards for over a decade. The hazards were reported to the ministry as required and are being dealt with.”



Gov’t fines IDF for exposing troops to asbestos
02/12/2013 00:37
Environmental Protection Ministry to impose NIS 3,830,469 worth of financial sanctions on the army for negligence.

The Environmental Protection Ministry will impose NIS 3,830,469 worth of financial sanctions on the IDF due to the army’s negligence with respect to asbestos removal, the ministry announced on Monday evening.

Despite the fact that the Environment Ministry had ordered the army to evacuate an asbestos hazard from an area adjacent to Beersheba’s Natan Shalid base seven months ago, the IDF has failed to do so, according to the ministry.

Instead, panels laden with asbestos have sat exposed to the open air and have caused health hazards to soldiers, the ministry explained.

The decision to fine the IDF constitutes the first time that any government agency has ever informed the army of an intent to impose a monetary sanction, a ministry statement added.

“It is impossible that soldiers will endanger themselves precisely inside their bases as a result of environmental and health oversights,” said Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan.

“The use of fines against the IDF is most unusual and unprecedented, but we are not willing to accept disregarding of the law and risking of human lives.”

The asbestos hazards at Natan Shalid are the result of a series of military glitches that began in August 2011 with the accidental breakage of asbestos building structures, the ministry statement explained. Contrary to the guidelines of the Prevention of Asbestos Hazards Law, the IDF failed to update the Environment Ministry immediately, and instead waited about a month and a half to do so, the ministry noted. Regarding asbestos removal, the law requires submission of a work plan for ministry approval, as well as implementation of the removal by means of a certified contractor and inspector.

The IDF, however, only carried out a partial debris removal and moved the remaining hazard about 100 meters away by means of an additionally damaging towing process – which dispersed the asbestos over a larger area and generated dust containing asbestos fibers, the ministry charged.

A known human carcinogen, disintegrating asbestos fibers can penetrate the respiratory system and cause diseases such as mesothelioma and cancer, the ministry statement said. Stressing that the army’s actions pose an ongoing risk to nearby soldiers, the Environment Ministry said that the IDF has 30 days to submit a written appeal to the office.

In response, the IDF stressed that it has been following proper protocol regarding asbestos removal for many years.

“The IDF has been treating asbestos at its bases for over a decade,” it said in a statement. “The asbestos hazard at the Natan base is known and was reported to the Environmental Protection Ministry by officials acting on behalf of the IDF.

“The hazard is being treated continuously and is right now [being deliberated] among IDF enforcement officials and Environmental Protection Ministry enforcement officials, who are discussing ways of treating it.”