03/20/2011 01:25

Different consistency of factory’s wastewater often leads the regional treatment plant to buckle under the strain of processing.

Factories should be forced to build their own wastewater treatment plants rather than use regional ones, Citizens for the Environment in the Galilee (CFE) argue in their latest report on factories in the north.

The second annual report was released for publication on Sunday morning.

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The different consistency of a factory’s wastewater often leads the treatment plant to buckle under the strain of processing it, Liora Amitay, co-head of CFE said late last week ahead of the report’s release.

“A few years ago, the Acre wastewater treatment plant was put out of commission for eight months because of the fats from a factory,” she said by way of illustration.

“The Acre regional plant processes 16,000 cubic meters a day. The Strauss factory produces 1,000 of those cubic meters all by itself. Of course, Strauss is just illustrative of all of the factories,” she added.

CFE’s reports take a close look at northern factories to determine how environmentally friendly they are. The first report last year looked at 25 factories. This year, the report examined 19 factories, two wastewater treatment plants and a hospital.

The report’s two other main conclusions were that most of the factories do not even meet the basic standards set down in their business licenses and that medical pharmaceutical residue in the water supply was an issue that must begin to be addressed in Israel.

The Environmental Protection Ministry inserts specific standards for each factory to adhere to into its business license. CFE found that regarding air pollution and wastewater, the factories surveyed largely did not meet the criteria.

Either they violated the standards, or did not conduct the requisite number of tests or did not report as they should have to inspectors.

Many of the standards of the business license were not updated properly and were not as relevant as they should be to the current conditions of the factory, according to the report.

“One factory has an ammonia container less than 50 meters from a residential area in Acre. While it may have been that the factory was far away from residential areas when it was built, the city has expanded and now it is right next to a neighborhood. An ammonia container is extremely dangerous – what would happen if it exploded?” Amitay said.

CFE also graded the factories in terms of adherence to standards and willingness to assist in the assessment. The worst marks were given to the Strauss ice cream factory in Acre. In 2010, the factory was still polluting the air – though far less than it had in 2008 – and its wastewater treatment was vastly insufficient in 2008 and 2009. The factory’s management refused to assist the NGO and refused to respond to the report’s findings when the NGO asked for a response.

In general, Amitay said, there had been two major improvements since the first report came out last year. First, she said, the Environmental Protection Ministry has been making much more information available online. An amendment to the Freedom of Information Act passed this past year, after much lobbying by CFE, requiring government agencies and ministries to publish environmental data online.

Second, many of the factories were much more responsive to the organization’s requests for information.

During a press tour of some of the factories on Thursday, Amitay said that they were greeted by the factory heads themselves.

“It used to be that factory heads had no interest in environmental matters. They would appoint an expert and then forget about the issue.

Now, the factory heads take an interest themselves and refer to environmental issues as ‘the core values of the factory.’” The Evron landfill received the highest marks. The standards set for it were acceptable, it adhered to them for the most part, and gave the NGO full access to documentation and a tour of the site.

The report concluded by calling for more enforcement by the Environmental Protection Ministry and called on the factories to install best available technologies for preventing air pollution and treating wastewater and not wait for the government to crack down on them before taking action.

An English executive summary will be made available later this week, Amitay said.

The report in Hebrew is available online at: https://sites.google.com/site/industrycfe2/