Jet fuel leak could endanger animals in Negev reserve

In the incident, more than 1.5 million liters of jet fuel leaked from a pipeline after earthmoving equipment ruptured a portion of the pipeline.
By Yanir Yagna and Zafrir Rinat

A fuel leak that continued for hours yesterday seriously damaged the Nahal Tzin nature reserve and could endanger plants and animals at the Negev site.

The leak is the second since the weekend, when fuel spilled in the Gulf of Eilat, threatening the area’s coral reefs.

In yesterday’s incident, more than 1.5 million liters of jet fuel leaked from a pipeline operated by the Eilat-Ashkelon Pipeline Company after earthmoving equipment ruptured a portion of the pipeline, which runs from a site near Be’er Sheva to Eilat and the nearby Ovda area.

The Environmental Protection Ministry opened an investigation yesterday into the circumstances of the fuel leak that will examine the extent to which Eilat-Ashkelon Pipeline personnel were prepared for such a leak.

Environmental damage, which some fear may included polluted water sources, could be serious because of the desert terrain in which the accident occurred. Plants and animals in the area are dependent on the meager sources of water and nutrients around the site and are particularly sensitive to pollution of this scope.

MK Dov Khenin (Hadash ), who heads a joint parliamentary committee on health and the environment, called the spill at Nahal Tzin “a warning light that requires a drastic change in environmental protection in the oil industry.”

He called on the National Infrastructure Ministry to support legislation that would expand oversight of fuel production and transportation.

Eilat-Ashkelon it followed all emergency procedures, isolated the affected section of pipe and stopped the leak. It also promised to work to restore the area in full coordination with the relevant authorities.

The company said the damage took place when an outside contractor who had been supervising pipeline repairs left the area after an inspector from the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, which is responsible for the nature reserve, asked him about digging work in another part of the reserve.

The fuel leaked while workers were testing the pipeline.

The company said the damaged section of pipe was automatically sealed off as soon as the leak was detected. But Raviv Shapiro, the parks authority’s southern region director, said the fuel continued to spill long after the pipeline was closed off.

Dozens of salvage personnel arrived on the scene as soon as the leak was reported. Eilat-Ashkelon Pipeline sent a tanker truck to pump out the fuel and enlisted assistance from the Rotem Fertilizers plant in the area.

Work crews dug a trench to drain off the fuel and to prevent further damage to the nature reserve. A cleanup effort was also begun in areas that had been polluted by the spill. Although the accident occurred at about 7:30 A.M., the leak was not stopped until late afternoon.

The fuel reached up to half a kilometer away from the damaged section of pipeline.

Tractor causes 1.5-million-liter jet fuel spill in Negev – Jerusalem Post

06/30/2011 04:46

Experts say cleanup of area could take weeks; Environmental Protection Ministry official: “This is one of largest soil contaminations in last year.”

A tractor struck a portion of the Eilat-Ashkelon Pipeline during pipe rehabilitation work on Wednesday morning, causing over 1.5 million liters of jet fuel oil to spill into Nahal Zin and the surrounding Negev nature reserve.

Experts said the cleanup of the area could take weeks.

“This is one of the largest soil contaminations to occur in the last year in Israel,” Guy Samet, manager of the Environmental Protection Ministry’s southern district, told The Jerusalem Post. “It’s not just typical soil pollution – it’s in a very sensitive area.”

Dozens of inspectors from the Nature and Parks Authority and the Environmental Protection Ministry were still assessing the extent of the damage caused at the end of the day. Amounts of spilled oil that the former deemed “severe pollution” will require a “Sisyphean” amount of work to fully extract, according to a statement.

After the tractor hit the pipeline, an “outburst of jet fuel oil” flowed into the Nahal Zin and the mountainside, a leak that emergency crews only succeeded in plugging about four or five hours after the incident, the Nature and Parks Authority said.

Other workers began the process of cleaning the pollution, and a tanker from the Eilat- Ashkelon Pipeline Company was shuttled in to pump the remaining puddles of fuel oil from the ground.

“We see the event as extremely severe, particularly regarding the damage caused to natural treasures in the reserve,” said Eli Amitai, director of Nature and Parks Authority, in a statement. “As soon as we heard news of the leak and its severity we summoned dozens of inspectors and officials into the area.”

These workers, he explained, rushed in to help close the area to hikers and then begin carrying out preliminary operations for cleaning up the mess.

“We are preparing to treat the damage in an optimal way in order to reduce the damage in nature to a minimum, but according to preliminary estimates it will be difficult work, taking days, perhaps weeks,” Amitai said.

Raviv Shapira, director of the southern district of the Nature and Parks Authority, added: “The damage is tremendous – beyond the contamination on the surface and in the burrows of wildlife in the area, a big part of the fuel seeped into the ravine, and the Environmental Protection Ministry has already begun to assess the damage and the extent of rehabilitation necessary. It is also investigating the circumstances of this grave event.”

The next step – beginning on Thursday – will be transferring large amounts of polluted soil from the area to a nearby treatment center, officials said.

“Tomorrow they are supposed to take the first segment, and after we conduct the treatment, there will be another shipment,” Samet told the Post, noting that the Environmental Protection Ministry did not yet know the exact amount of soil to be transported, as the workers are still taking measurements.

“We’re now starting to investigate everything that’s happening there,” he said.

This oil slick follows two spills that hit the shores of Eilat just this past weekend, and environmental activists slammed the government for not taking measures necessary to prevent such crises.

“This seems like a severe ecological disaster,” said Hila Krupsky, Greenpeace spokeswoman, in a statement. “Greenpeace calls upon the Environmental Protection Ministry and all the authorities involved to minimize the damage and treat this immediately.”

Krupsky added that this incident is a “large, black flag that the State of Israel must address” and called for people to “wean” themselves off the “addiction to oil” and instead turn to renewable energy.

“The oil accident today is an additional red light indicating the necessity of change in the approach to environmental protection in the oil field,” said MK Dov Henin (Hadash), chairman of the Environment and Health Committee, in a statement. “The National Infrastructures minister, who is trying to thwart the modern Petroleum Law that I recommended, insists upon being the only blameworthy party in a future state inquiry commission. It is essential that the next oil catastrophe be prevented.”

Green Movement co-chairman Prof. Alon Tal of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev agreed, admonishing the Ministerial Committee for rejecting on June 19 amendments to the 1952 Petroleum Law, which would require updated environmental standards regarding oil and gas drilling in Israel.

“This is a real lesson,” he told the Post on Wednesday evening.

“An oil spill in the Mediterranean could be disastrous,” he continued, referring to the new drilling beginning in the Tamar and Leviathan natural gas basins. “At present, there are insufficient measures dedicated to averting a marine ecological disaster associated with a spill. We still have time to get our act together.”

Tal stressed that the government must learn from Wednesday’s Nahal Zin crisis and enact new environmental regulations with respect to oil and gas drilling before such an event hits an even larger area.

“Before we start our new venture in the Mediterranean, it would be well worth it to find the expertise needed and develop a protocol, so as not to find ourselves in a similar situation in the Mediterranean, where the damage could be disastrous,” he said.

Gas leaks into south Israel nature preserve after pipeline burst – Haaretz

Pipe collapses while Eilat Ashkelon Pipeline Company performing maintanence in Tzin Valley.
By Zafrir Rinat

A large amount of gas leaked into the Nahal Tzin Nature Preserve in the Negev after a major Eilat pipeline burst on Wednesday. The leak caused major damage to the southern Israel nature preserve’s wildlife.

The pipe burst when the Eilat Ashkelon Pipeline Company (EAPC) was performing maintenance work in the Tzin Valley. While EAPAC was working in the nature preserve, a pipeline collapsed, resulting in the leakage of a large amount of crude oil into Nahal Tzin.
Negev gas leak

Nahal Tzin gas leak.
Photo by: Tzahi Olainik

The leak may have caused damage to the nature preserve’s water sources.

Eli Amitai, the director-general of the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, has called on all available teams from the authority to arrive on the scene of the leak as soon as possible.

They have already successfully prevented the further spread of the oil-leak and efforts are currently underway to clean up the preserve.

The area surrounding the Nahal Tzin Nature Preserve has been closed off to hikers.

EAPC issued a response to the leak Wednesday, saying that the pipeline collapse took place after an external contractor left the south Israel site where maintenance was taking place and under the direction of the Israel Nature and Parks Authority began digging a few hundred meters away. The pipeline that was hit by the digging was inactive and contained kerosene.

“The company proceeding according to standard protocol and used emergency measures to isolate the breach of the pipeline and stop the leak. EAPC is currently pumping gas and will soon take steps to fix and restore the area to its previous state, in full cooperation with the Environmental Protection Ministry and other relevant bodies,” the statement said.