Sewege giant to dredge Kishon riverbed, purify sediments to turn polluted waterway into oasis for northern residents.

A Canadian sewage giant will be dredging the Kishon riverbed and purifying its sediments in an effort to turn Israel’s once most polluted waterway into an oasis for the country’s northern residents, government authorities announced on Tuesday.

At a press conference in his Tel Aviv office Tuesday morning, Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan declared, “It’s a very happy morning for me, and there’s no other chance in the world I would do an event one week before the election unless it was very important to me – to declare one of the most important projects that my ministry has led in the last four years, cleaning up the Kishon River.”

After the Kishon Drainage Authority issued an international tender for the project, officials from the drainage authority, the Kishon River Authority and the Environmental Protection Ministry chose Canada-based firm EnGlobe Corp. out of 20 competitors.

With a local industry and government investment that amounts to NIS 220 million, EnGlobe will be unearthing 440,000 cubic meters of mud from the riverbed plus an additional 100,000 cubic meters of polluted sediments, explained Dr. Yeshayahu Bar-Or, deputy director-general of the Environmental Protection Ministry.

A dredging vessel will extend its diagonal legs to the river’s floor, employing a turning “cutter head” to dredge aggressively through the mud and sediments, a video from the company explained.

“Our core experience is exactly what we think is needed to get the job done in a safe way and in a highly environmentally sensitive way,” said Dr. Barry Ellis, international business development director at EnGlobe.

He noted that the company had already remediated approximately 6,000 such sites in Canada, the United Kingdom and France – many of which had been contaminated similarly to the Kishon, but most of which had been much worse.

The flow of sewage into the Kishon River began in the 1930s when petrochemical factories opened in the area, followed by a second surge of industrial factories in the 1960s, Bar-Or explained. “All the life in the Kishon died,” he said.

Preceding the dredging and purification steps, work began last year to seal and divert the river’s route. This year, the land purification process under the direction of EnGlobe will kick off, and the ministry estimates that the public will have a completely clean river to enjoy by 2015, according to Bar-Or.

Continuing the Kishon rehabilitation is crucial to proper drainage and flood prevention, he explained, referring to the stormy situation last week in which the river overflowed and flooded the surrounding region. In addition to preventing floods, revamping the Kishon will decrease land pollution damages, encourage a more vibrant collection of biodiversity, and provide an oasis for the public, he added, displaying a Power- Point rendering of people kayaking and sail-boating through the waters.

Following the dredging process, the mud and sediment will undergo a preliminary treatment, followed by vigorous on-site biological treatment, he said. In just about two weeks, setup of the work site for the treatments will begin, and in August, the dredging vessels will begin their work, according to the ministry. By the project’s end in 2015, there will also be a park surrounding the river for visitors to enjoy.

“We succeeded in bringing the project to a position in which we can now start with the most important phase and make sure that the dream is going to happen, and that the Kishon River will be, God willing, clean, and people can again enjoy the water and the park that surrounds it,” Erdan said.

The minister added that he found particular significance in the selection of a Canadian company as the tender winner, as relations between Israel and Canada, on environmental subjects and a wide range of others, continue to increase.

“Canada is one of our strongest allies around the world, if not the strongest lately, and I think it’s very important for us to strengthen the relationship,” Erdan said. “It’s great that you have companies with the international experience and abilities to do such a project.”

Canadian Ambassador Paul Hunt praised the success of EnGlobe and said that he looked forward to following the progress of the Kishon’s ongoing rehabilitation.

“I think it speaks about the importance of our bilateral relationship. I think it speaks about the capacity of Canadian companies to do good business in Israel,” Hunt said.

Sharon Nissim, head of the Kishon River Authority, told The Jerusalem Post that she and her staff members were very happy with the project’s turnout and appreciated the minister’s efforts to transform a contaminated river into something that people could enjoy.

Meanwhile, Erdan stressed that he was pleased to see the “flagship project” of his ministry unfolding. “This is the first time something like this is happening,” he said. “Hopefully this will be the beginning for cleaning up all the historical, biblical rivers of Israel.”