375,000 tons of waste and byproducts fester in Acre site
By Arik Mirovsky

The liquidator of United Steel Mills and its subsidiaries must lead a cleanup operation at a polluted site in Acre, where the company had a plant, the Haifa District Court has ordered. Over the years, 375,000 tons of dangerous substances had been dumped at the site.

The court president, Judge Bilha Gillor, said the move was in the public interest as the fastest way to eliminate the hazard the site presented. The cleanup will be carried out jointly by the state and the liquidator, Ilan Shavit.

United Steel Mills had stored and buried production byproducts and waste over many years at the 23-dunam location.

Dealing with the pollution was apparently not a priority of United Steel Mills’ management when the plant was in operation. The problem was only confronted when the company became insolvent in 2000. An environmental survey revealed that the ground up to 2.1 meters deep had been polluted, in violation of environmental standards.

In 2001, Shavit approached government authorities with a request for financial assistance in dealing with the environmental problems. The government consented, agreeing to kick in NIS 21 million or 50% of the total cost of the cleanup, whichever figure was lower. In May of this year, Shavit announced he had secured the necessary NIS 42 million in funding for the cleanup, half of which will come from the state while the other half will come from United Steel’s secured creditors.

Judge Gillor noted in her ruling that the forest fires in the Carmel region broke out while she was drafting her ruling, underlining the importance of dealing with environmental hazards to both the public and the country’s leadership.