Israel is finally set to pass a law aimed at rehabilitating contaminated land but question remains – who is responsible for clean up efforts and just what will they be responsible for?

Chen Pundak, Calcalist
Published: 08.17.12

It may be a few decades too late but Israel is finally set to pass a law aimed at rehabilitating contaminated land. Israel currently has some 1,200 sites with contaminated soil but according to the Environment Protection Ministry, Israel has at least 10,000 contaminated sites – precise figures will only be available after a comprehensive national soil survey is conducted.

The bills cost is estimated at NIS 9 billion ($223 million) but the cost effectiveness evaluation is NIS 35 billion ($868 million). The cause is simple’ taking the IMI compound in the Sharon as an example, it has 7,500 dunam (1,854 acres) of the most contaminated land in Israel will be able to populate some 100,000 people after clean up efforts.

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The Environmental Protection Ministry bill was approved last year after the Adam Teva V’Din, the Israel Union for Environmental Defense (IUED) tried to pass the bill through a private initiative. Since then the Knesset Internal Affair and Environment Committee has only approved half of the sections of the bill.

As most of the land is owned by the State, it also owns most of the contaminated land. This land is mostly made up of Israel Military Industry facilities and other defense industries located in key areas throughout the country, which have not been in operation for a decade or more.

Yet because of the contamination which was caused by years of unawareness, the land and underground water are contaminated by substances, the effect of which is as yet unknown.

According to one article in the bill, the Environmental Protection minister will establish a committee for the rehabilitation of land where the State is responsible for the contamination by law. The committee will include two environmental protection representatives, two Finance Ministry representatives and one representative from the Prime Minister’s Office.

The committee’s role will be to determine priorities and method of execution so that within 10 years half of the contaminated lands will be rehabilitated and rehabilitation will be completed within 25 years. Yet the article says nothing about what the State’s exact responsibilities are.

Environment Protection Ministry legal advisor Zohar Barak claims that the bill emphasizes the State’s responsibility for handling contamination. “The State is the only entity with a timetable set within the law,” she explained.

“Since no one thought the State could handle all incidents of contamination in one day, the bill stated that within five years it would complete a survey of land it fears may have been contaminated and within 25 years – a relatively short period of time when compared with other states with a similar law – the State needs to take care of all contaminated land.”

It is important to mention that the State includes three entities that may potentially be responsible: The Israel Land Administration, the Defense Ministry and the Israel Military Industries.

The idea at the basis of the bill is implementation of the “you break it you buy it” principle (you pollute – you pay).

Yet according to the bill there are four factors responsible, both together and each separately, for the surveys and the rehabilitation: The polluting factor, the owner, the landholder and factors known as hazardous materials industries.

A fund will be established within the framework of the bill and should a situation arise where it is impossible to find the party responsible for the contamination, or should the responsible party be found to be insolvent, the fund will be put to use.,7340,L-4269432,00.html