Three Haifa Bay plants showed unacceptably high air pollution emissions levels.
The Environmental Protection Ministry issued indictments on Thursday against three factories owned by Israel Oil Refineries Ltd., also known as the Bazan Group, citing numerous air pollution and toxic waste treatment violations between 2010 and 2013.

Measurements taken at the company’s three Haifa Bay plants over the period – its crude refinery, Gadiv Petrochemical Industries Ltd. and Carmel Olefins Ltd. – showed unacceptably high levels of air pollution emissions. The factories also ignored warnings and orders to properly dispose of hazardous substances and delayed installation of mechanisms designed to reduce emissions from storage facilities, the ministry stated.

The indictments, submitted to the Haifa Magistrate’s Court against both the factories themselves and company executives, were the result of a criminal investigation conducted by the Environment Ministry’s Green Police unit.

“It is important to note that in recent years, due to the strictness of the Environmental Protection Ministry and the investments of Bazan [Israel Oil Refineries], there has been a double-digit percent drop in the dangerous and polluting emissions from the Bazan factories,” the ministry’s director- general, David Lefler, said.

He emphasized that the indictments are “a direct continuation of the policy of zero tolerance for offending factories and of our struggle to reduce air pollution in the Haifa Bay.”

The most severe indictment filed was against Israel Oil Refineries’ crude oil facility, which operates the production and sales of petroleum products. This indictment includes in personam charges against specific individuals, as well as violations involving air pollution, emissions abnormalities and the failure to install emissions reduction equipment in storage tanks containing methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE) – an organic compound that can endanger public health.

The indictment against the crude oil refinery also accuses the facility of accumulating some 28,000 tons of hazardous waste sludge in the factory’s yard, leading to the emission of volatile organic compounds, some of which may cause cancer.

The indictments against Gadiv Petrochemical Industries and Carmel Olefins charge the factories with excess emissions release while producing raw materials for the plastics and chemicals industries. Their chimney flue gases contained levels of carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide and nitrous oxides that surpassed permissible emissions levels and could endanger local residents.

The ministry’s director-general promised a tough response to any factory found breaking its violations, stating that ”The message to industry is unequivocal: we will use all enforcement tools at our disposal, including the closure of factories.”

In response to the indictments, ORL stressed that over the past few years the company has conducted intensive, largescale projects to treat environment issues, at a cost of more than NIS 1.2 billion. As part of these projects, Israel Oil Refineries said that a total of about 27,000 tons of accumulated waste was evacuated two years ago. The firm added that waste accumulation occurred during its decades as a stateowned company.

“The issue of emissions treatment occurs today by means of the best available environmental technologies,” a statement from the company said. “This happens in coordination with the Environmental Protection Ministry. This systematic treatment has led to significant reductions in localized and non-localized emissions, resulting in a drop of between 70-90 percent in the extent of the group’s factory emissions.”

Among other technologies installed in the past two years have been thermal oxidizer and regenerative thermal oxidizer systems.

The company representative added that it will “study the indictments when they are received.”