05/29/2011 18:44

700,000 tons of contaminated sludge to be treated; Park planned near Haifa.
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The Interior Ministry approved a plan to drain 500,000 tons of contaminated sediment from the Kishon River and then rehabilitate the entire polluted area by creating a vibrant park.

The decision was taken at a meeting of the ministry’s planning and construction branch in Haifa late last week.

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The plan – which includes treating the contaminated sludge and turning it into normal soil, has been avidly promoted by the Environmental Protection Ministry, the Kishon Drainage Authority, the Kishon River Authority, local production plants, the Haifa Municipality and Kibbutz Yagur, the ministry said.

At a cost of approximately $56.5 million, the plan not only calls for the drainage of half a million tons of sludge from the riverbed, but also another 200,000 tons of old dredged material from ponds along the river, according to Danny Sherban, CEO and chief engineer of Yodfat Engineers, the company responsible for drainage the sediment.

For the past decade, researchers have debated whether the high incidence of cancer among former naval commandoes who had dived in the river for training was linked to the high level of pollutants in the water.

The drainage process will take about three years, “including the dredging works and the sediment treatment works, water and air treatment works,” which are being planned so that that no “disturbances to the public will occur during and after the work’s completion,” Sherban told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday.

The team will use a hydraulic dredger to remove sediment in a “sufficiently liquefied form” that will then “be pumped through a floating, closed, flexible pipe system” – avoiding truck spills, he said.

Once the dredging is completed, the goal is to convert the area into a park, with bicycle and walking paths on both sides of the river, the Interior Ministry said.

“It would be somewhat over-ambitious to assume the area can be restored to the pre-industrial situation in the Haifa Bay area, but the project will immensely improve the river bottom’s condition as well as the environmental well-being of the river banks and the water,” Sherban said.

“It is definitely imperative that the industries along the river continue to be monitored and maintain a proper quality of their discharges into the river, to avoid further contamination of the sediment that arrives each year and the severe drainage hazards caused by the imposed halts in dredging and required maintenance operations due to the aforementioned contamination.”

While the cost of the plan is currently estimated at $56.5m., Sherban said that an international tender for the rehabilitation process will be published, directed at specialist environmental contractors, and it is impossible to predict the exact price-tag.

The implementation of this plan is also critical, Sherban explained, since the Kishon’s hydraulic capacity, the volume of water flow it can accommodate, is being increasingly reduced by the naturally produced sediment settling along its last six or seven kilometers.

“The Kishon River is the most important drainage conduit and its hydraulic capacity is the most important factor defining whether the Haifa Bay area will be flooded during the rainy season,” he said.

“The contamination of this sediment was, however, not natural but due to petrochemical, municipal and chemical industrial activity. The project is expected to solve both problems – the river’s hydraulic capacity as well as the environmental damage caused. Continuous monitoring, enforcement and the basic capability to carry out maintenance works at reasonable cost are obviously imperative.”