by SHARON UDASIN 02/12/2015

When an EAPC pipeline burst on December 3, some 5 million liters of crude oil gushed into the Arava Desert, causing particularly damaging impact on the Evrona Nature Reserve in the area.

Oil flow through the Eilat-Ashkelon Pipeline Company’s underground channel will not be reinstated until the pipeline is proved completely intact, Deputy Environmental Protection Minister Ophir Akunis announced on Thursday.

When an EAPC pipeline burst on December 3, some 5 million liters of crude oil gushed into the Arava Desert, causing heavy damage, including to the Evrona Nature Reserve. Akunis then said that oil cannot resume flowing through the pipeline until the company meets a series of conditions outlined by the Environmental Protection Ministry.

“As long as we have not ensured public and environmental safety, we will not approve the renewal of the line and the operation of the damaged pipe,” Akunis said in December. “I demand that EAPC undertake a series of safety steps before a resumption of routine be declared.”

The conditions for resumption of flow, which Environmental Protection Ministry central district manager Guy Samet sent to EAPC on Tuesday, stress the “need to evaluate the intactness of the line” as well as to implement measures to prevent future spills.

The company must create a detailed plan for repair and reconnection of the pipe at the site of the leak, formulated by an engineer from outside the firm, the conditions say. In addition, EAPC must conduct a thorough evaluation of the line before activating it, as well as prepare information on possible dangers associated with the line and on risk mitigation proposals.

“Until these conditions have been fulfilled and information from EAPC has been received, flow in the Ashkelon-Eilat pipeline will not be resumed,” the ministry said.

The Environmental Protection Ministry’s Green Police are conducting a criminal investigation regarding the oil spill, from which contamination spread 7 kilometers.

Meanwhile, at the end December, the government approved a NIS 17 million budget to rehabilitate the portions of the desert affected, in addition to the cleanup funds being contributed by EAPC. About 30 companies have been participating in the decontamination effort, according to the Environmental Protection Ministry.