Environmental sampling in Haifa Photo: Eran Gilvarg
In response to a piece that was aired on Channel 2 News on June 6, 2016, the Ministry of Environmental Protection (MoEP) is noting that the claim in the piece that there has been an increase in air pollution in Haifa Bay is unprofessional and misleading. The statistical review conducted by Channel 2 was done incorrectly, and did not take into account all the variables, such as meteorology. In fact, there has been a clear decrease in air pollution, and we can see this from monitoring and samples that were taken.
MoEP Director General Dancziger: "There is a downward trend in air pollution in Haifa Bay. This conclusion is backed up by data and professional analysis of thousands of samples. The MoEP conducts this analysis and publishes the results within the framework of the Haifa Bay Action Plan to Reduce Pollution and Environmental Risks. And this is only the beginning. We have put the Haifa Bay air pollution problem on the table. We are working to correct the situation and we will get additional results. Our goal is to reduce pollution and risks for the general population, and all our activities are designed to do that."
The MoEP did, in fact, find that the concentration of benzene throughout the country had increased fivefold, from 2014 to June 2015. However, a review of data from monitoring stations on sites where continuous measurements and sampling are being conducted simultaneously showed a discrepancy between the two calculation methods.
As soon as it became clear that the data provided by a European Laboratory where samples were being sent was not reliable, that lab was replaced by an American one. The ministry informed the Israel Laboratory Accreditation Authority, which had originally approved use of the European laboratory. It is important to note that even the revised figures from the U.S. lab are lower, by half, than the permitted standard.
The Ministry also asked an expert in the field of analytical chemistry, Dr. Shlomo Almog, to check whether the air quality has actually deteriorated, or whether the change stems from replacing the laboratory analysis. Dr. Almog wrote in his concluding report that "an increase of this magnitude was also confirmed during a controlled comparative trial, after confounding factors were neutralized, such as the sampling process and specific environmental conditions on the days samples were taken. This correlates to the period when the European lab was replaced by the U.S. lab."