The state comptroller cites problems such as a rocket-fuel ingredient polluting water used at orange orchards.
By Zafrir Rinat | Jul. 18, 2013

A number of ministries have failed to address polluted soil and groundwater at Israel Military Industries sites in the Haifa and Rehovot areas, the state comptroller said in his report on security and defense issues published Wednesday.

This failure persisted over years despite the risk to public health, the damage to natural water sources, and the increasing costs for cleaning up the sites, said the comptroller, Joseph Shapira.

Even though production at the Haifa site was halted several years ago, no arrangement to fund the cleanup has been reached between the Defense Ministry and IMI, the comptroller said. The ministry told the comptroller it had asked IMI to immediately begin cleaning up the site, but IMI said it needed government funding.

In the Rehovot area, land next to an IMI site is polluted by perchlorate, a chemical used to produce rocket fuel. Perchlorate can cause thyroid damage in humans.

According to the comptroller, the Israel Water Authority has not finished identifying the sources of the pollution. As a result, the authority must still carry out a risk assessment based on the pollution’s spread, and no prevention plan has been drawn up. Meanwhile, chemicals are spreading toward water boreholes around Rehovot.

The Environmental Protection Ministry learned about the perchlorate problem in December 2005, but did not act for five years, the comptroller said. According to the report, the ministry said the authority failed to provide the necessary information, while the authority said it had.

Another problem was the irrigation of orange orchards in the Rehovot area with water polluted by perchlorate. The comptroller found that farmers had received contradictory instructions from various ministries, so they continued using the water.