By SHARON UDASIN 02/15/2012 23:17
Bill proposed by Environmental Protection Ministry staff would curb soil pollution and rehabilitate contaminated lands.
Polluted stream – illustrative photo By Zalul
The Knesset’s Internal Affairs and Environment Committee began on Tuesday to prepare a bill that would curb soil pollution and rehabilitate contaminated lands for its second and third (final) readings.

The bill under discussion was proposed by Environmental Protection Ministry staff following their review of a private bill drafted by Adam Teva V’Din – The Israel Union for Environmental Defense.

Calling for the comprehensive treatment of the nationwide phenomenon of contaminated land, the bill likewise aims to prevent water contamination and reduce the exposure of citizens to public health hazards, as well as increase the availability of land for development in central Israel, according to Adam Teva V’Din.

Attending Tuesday’s discussion were both Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan and the director-general of the ministry, Alona Sheffer- Karo.

Many mistakes were made in the past during construction, which have led to soil contamination that puts public health at risk and demands a high environmental price, according to Erdan. The minister also stressed that while many developers are willing to pay for cleaning up polluted land in the Tel Aviv area due to high residential demand, much of the periphery’s potential open space remains contaminated.

According to economic estimates, however, every shekel invested in cleaning up such land will reap a profit of about NIS 14, Erdan added.

Meanwhile, Dr. Yael Mason, head of the ministry’s Polluted Lands department, explained to the committee that the bill would require the cleaning of polluted soil and also provide for a fund aimed at rehabilitating such land.

Much of the contaminated soil has become this way due to pollution from places like industrial sites, gas stations and military bases – some of which are still infecting the local land and water, the organization said. The bill under discussion would require the registration of contaminated lands nationwide, make sure potential land developers are aware of contamination spots and would reduce further pollution of these lands after cleaning by requiring periodic checks of pollution levels.

“The bill would allow for the comprehensive treatment of contaminated soil in the country, will release thousands of dunams [of land] for building affordable housing, prevent the exposure of the public to health dangers and contribution to the improvement of drinking water quality,” said Adam Teva V’Din’s executive director, Amit Bracha.

In addition to the bill’s current measures, Adam Teva V’Din has also sent a position paper to the Internal Affairs and Environment Committee recommending a few other clauses, such as delegating land and water-rehabilitation monitoring to one official body under the auspices of the Environmental Protection Ministry, obligating the state to clear contaminated lands under its ownership in a timely and comprehensive fashion and creating detailed maps and a plan for cleaning the contaminated soil before granting approval.

Also during Tuesday’s meeting, Sheffer-Karo pledged that the Environmental Protection Ministry would be active in promoting the bill, and would work under the guidance of the committee to formulate a final draft of the proposal that would solve the problems of soil contamination without harming the economy.

The committee’s chairman, MK Amnon Cohen (Shas), added: “The bill will prevent soil pollution and rehabilitate historical lands. I will promote its launch quickly and decisively.”