Water Authority report indicates underground water basins adjacent to gas, petrol warehouse facilities severely contaminated; only 3 of 15 reservoirs tested found to be clean

Published: 11.21.12

A survey by the Israel Water Authority has found great quantities of petrol traces in underground water reservoirs that are adjacent to petrol warehouse facilities.

The report, which refers to pollution levels measured in 2011, tested 15 water basins and found that 12 of them were severely polluted.

The Water Authority differentiates between two types of petrol pollution: “Stains” – which are large oil spots floating on top of the water; and “particles” or which petroleum solvents, which are released into underground water from either oil spots or petrol that has been absorbed into the ground.

The Water Authority began testing basins that are in close proximity to petrol facilities in 2004. Between 2004 and 2011 155 sites were tested, with 36 sites presenting stains and 94 sites presenting particles. Only 94 sites were clean.

In some cases, stains stretching between 11 sq. feet and 1.2 acres were found. In 2011, multiple drilling projects were launched with aim of removing the oil from the polluted basins.

Underground water purification facilities are installed in 51 of the sites found to be polluted, and the Water Authority is monitoring the remaining 79.

“These particles are highly toxic and carcinogenic and they can affect people either by drinking water or by inhaling toxic fumes rising from polluted underground water,” Guy Reshef of the Water Authority said.

“This is why it’s so important that we detect these pollutions, monitor them and treat them,” he added.

Reshef added that the various companies, including Israel Oil Refineries, Petroleum and Energy Infrastructures (PEI) and Paz, were cooperating with the cleanup efforts and that the situation has been steadily improving.

PEI said that they are monitoring the situation closely and that “Some of the facilities in our care date back to the British Mandate. We care greatly about the environment and so far, 30 drills have been ordered to remove (the oil) and reduce any environmental impact.”

Paz said that “The company is treating the pollution found – which predates our ownership of the refineries – according to the Water Authority’s guidelines.”

Hadas Sheffer and Lior Gutman contributed to this report