Even though a new canal built at the Tze’elim area was supposed to be subject to strict monitoring, it took a month until Israel Chemicals detected a leak that allowed Dead Sea water to seep into the nearby environment, harming flora

Zafrir Rinat June 7, 2022

An Israel Chemicals canal at Tse'elim, in December.
An Israel Chemicals canal at Tse’elim, in December.Credit: Ilan Assyag

Dead Sea Works has stopped pumping water from the Dead Sea into its industrial ponds after water from a canal feeding the ponds seeped into the surrounding soil and harmed local flora, parent company Israel Chemicals said on Monday.

Built with the aim of reducing harm to the environment, the canal and a new pumping station had begun full operations early last month.

But last week, Dead Sea Works reported that high-salinity water from the Dead Sea was seeping out of the canal into the surrounding soil and had spread to broad areas of the Tze’elim Stream delta. Even though the new canal was supposed to be subject to strict monitoring, it took a month for the leak to first be detected.

The source of the leak is not yet clear, but the Nature and Parks Authority believes that it is due to improper sealing of the canal bed. The Tze’elim delta boasts a rich variety of flora and fauna.

The Environmental Protection Ministry, which has begun looking into the leak, will have to examine, among other things, whether Dead Sea Works reported the problem in a timely manner and whether all possible measures were taken to prevent it. Among other things, the ministry will examine the reports the company had been making to a monitoring committee established after the canal was opened.

Israel Chemicals defended its handling of the incident. “Upon preliminary identification of the incident, it was immediately reported to the authorities as per regulations,” it said in a statement on Monday.

“The company has honored all the relevant conditions and permits and is conducting field tests with complete transparency vis a vis the authorities as to the causes behind the increased seepage of seawater. The company accepts complete responsibility for treating and restoring the area, and has stopped using this part of the canal, while looking into steps to prevent recurrence of this phenomenon.”

ICL said it was now looking into the possibility of using its old canal and pumping station until the source of the issue is identified and solved.