Zafrir Rinat Mar 18, 2016
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Israel’s largest desalination plant was shut down yesterday by order of the Health Ministry due to marine pollution. The source of the pollution was an excess of treated effluent that was released into the sea instead of being stored for irrigation due to a lack of space.

It is still unclear when the plant, located southwest of Rishon Letzion will come back on line, and depends on when the flow of treated effluent stops and the polluted water is diluted.

The effluent was channeled to the sea via the Soreq Stream near the Palmahim beach. The environmental group Zalul said surfers in that area reported a burning sensation in their throats and eyes after being in the sea.

Zalul is demanding an investigation to determine what it says is a failure by the authorities responsible for water quality and supply.

The farmers use the effluent, but the Water Authority decided to stop participating in the construction of reservoirs, said Erez Wisman, director of the water employees’ union and chairman of the private water supply associations.“The agricultural associations are now faced with a shortage of tens of millions of cubic meters of reservoir,” Wisman said.

The Water Authority said that the effluent was “excess from the treatment plants at Yavne and Ashdod. “The harnessing of effluent is not sufficient at the moment, resulting in excesses which, due to lack of choice, had to be channeled into the stream and the sea. To reduce the damage, it was decided together with other experts to channel it into the Soreq Stream and thus keep the rest of the region’s streams clean.”

The Water Authority said experts were keeping an eye on the situation, studying the alternatives and would discuss the matter again next week. “The Water Authority is a partner in advancing planning and development of effluent treatment facilities, in particular the addition and upgrading of reservoirs so that in two to six years we can abstain from channeling treated effluent to streams in the region.”

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