Shortage of water may be the most crucial environmental problem facing Israel today. Water scarcity is exacerbated by the deteriorating quality of water resources due to demographic, industrial and agricultural pressures.
In 1993, Israel’s water consumption stood at 1679 million cubic meters
(MCM), as opposed to 1541 MCM in the previous year. Agricultural consumption totalled 1035.5 MCM, industrial demand reached 106.5 MCM and domestic use was 536 MCM.
Israel exploits all of its feasible water resources. About two-thirds of Israel’s annual fresh water potential are derived from the three major reservoirs: Lake Kinneret (Sea of Galilee), the coastal aquifer and the mountain aquifer (Yarkon-Taninim). To help meet the demands of a growing population and economy, Israel is increasing its development and use of treated wastewater, brackish water and water harvesting (collection, storage and use of storm runoff).
Israel is a world leader in recycling wastewater, which now accounts for almost 20% of total supply. Nearly 70% of the wastewater is treated and reused for agricultural purposes, mainly for the irrigation of non-food crops and animal fodder in accordance with permits issued by the Ministry of Health. By the end of the century, recycled wastewater may provide up to 400 MCM of water per year for irrigation purposes.
Water quality in the coastal aquifer is threatened by chemical and microbial pollutants, salination, nitrates, heavy metals, fuels and toxic organic compounds. Over the past 25 years, average chloride concentrations have increased from 110 mg/liter to 150 mg/liter. While growing awareness has led to better management and a decrease in overpumping, the prognosis for this aquifer is bleak. According to estimates of the Hydrological Service, 10% of the wells have already reached a salinity level exceeding 250 mg/liter, a concentration unsuitable for unrestricted agricultural irrigation. Within twenty-five years, over half of the wells will exceed permitted salinity levels. Nitrate concentrations have increased concomitantly due to intensive use of fertilizers in agriculture and the use of treated effluents for irrigation. Since 1950, nitrate concentrations have increased from 30 mg/liter to 40-50 mg/liter today. Contamination by heavy metals is minimal and is confined to sites in the environs of specific industrial zones. Stricter legislation and enforcement of hazardous substances legislation is expected to make a significant contribution to the prevention of pollution by heavy metals as is the obligation to dispose of all hazardous waste from industrial plants at the hazardous waste site at Ramat Hovav.
Fuel contamination is yet another source of water quality degradation. Draft regulations have been signed to prevent pollution resulting from contamination of groundwater by fuel.
Data on organic micro-pollutants in water have only begun to accumulate in recent years. A survey initiated in 1991 is monitoring 18 micro pollutant compounds derived from industrial sources, nine pesticides and four trihalomethanes. Results show that widespread pollution does not exist
(2.8% of the wells revealed at least one substance which exceeded the standard in at least one test). A new drinking water standard which relates to a much wider group of contaminants, including organic solvents and pesticides, has been submitted to the Ministry of Health for approval.
Tens of thousands of tests on the microbiological quality of drinking water are conducted each year. Results show a steady decline in substandard results in recent years. Some 4% of the tests show excess contaminants, most due to antiquated and leaking sewage pipes.
Increased population and agricultural activity in the Lake Kinneret watershed have led to contamination by different pollutants, especially pesticides, fertilizers and cowshed wastes. However, as a result of an effective management system for the lake and watershed, marked decreases have been noted in bacterial and dissolved nitrogen concentrations and in the number of cases of pesticide contamination. Recent studies have shown that overall water quality in the lake has not deteriorated and eutrophication has not occurred during the past 20 years. Water from the lake will meet new, stricter drinking water standards of no more than one turbidity unit when filtered in accordance with a recommendation of an advisory committee of the Water Commissioner.
A major drive is underway to rehabilitate Israel’s polluted rivers. The reason for river pollution can be traced back to water scarcity. Water is all too frequently trapped at its source to supply urban and agricultural demand. The situation is aggravated by the discharge of effluents into rivers, preventing the survival of fauna and flora and fostering the growth of mosquitoes and algae. In 1993, a National River Administration was established to oversee the restoration of the country’s rivers. The administration, consisting of representatives of a number of government ministries and green organizations, is charged with coordinating the efforts of the various bodies working to clean up the rivers, restore landscapes and rehabilitate ecosystems, flora and fauna for recreation, tourism, education and research. Major restoration work is currently being carried out in the Yarkon, Lachish, Kishon, Alexander and Ayalon Rivers. A prominent example of the restoration of a badly polluted river is the Yarkon, the longest of the coastal rivers. In an effort to improve water quality, a Yarkon River Authority was set up in 1988, composed of 19 organizations and local authorities, to cleanup, restore and develop the river, making it suitable for leisure and recreation.
Municipal and industrial sewage is the major contributor to the deteriorating quality of Israel’s rivers, but increased public awareness and legal proceedings are making a difference. Jerusalem, which discharges over 20 MCM of its sewage into the Soreq River, has agreed to accelerate its timetable for construction of a $100 million sewage treatment plant. In Eilat, a legal suit has led to a court order obliging the city to construct a 30-kilometer pipeline to divert its treated sewage northward where it will be used for agricultural irrigation following sewage treatment.
While in some cases restoration efforts call for the removal of effluents from streams altogether, in most cases efforts are focused on improving effluent quality to a degree which will allow recreational uses or even fishing. Advanced treatment plants, expected to be operational within one to three years, are now under construction in Netanya, Ramat Hasharon, Hod Hasharon, Kfar Sava and Ra’anana. Their operation will significantly upgrade water quality in the Yarkon, Poleg and Alexander Rivers.
Effluent regulations, promulgated in 1993, require secondary treatment to a level of 20 mg/ liter BOD and 30 mg/liter suspended solids as a minimum baseline level. Higher degrees of treatment, including nutrient removal and disinfection, are required by the Ministry of the Environment if effluents are to be discharged into rivers.
The National Sewage Administration has prepared a tri-annual program for the establishment and/or rehabilitation and expansion of treatment plants in 89 local authorities. A five-year plan for solving sewage problems in small settlements is being drawn up.
By law, no plant which produces industrial wastewater can be approved until it ensures adequate treatment of its wastewater prior to discharge into the municipal system. Current criteria for wastewater treatment levels do not take into account the level of total salts and their composition. In view of the growing quantities of effluents used for irrigation purposes, industries are being encouraged to reduce their salt emissions through more efficient use of the raw materials responsible for salination and through recycling for reuse. Since the regeneration of ion exchange in water softening processes contributes some 30% of the total quantity of sodium emitted by industry into wastewater, the Ministry of the Environment has prepared a draft regulation, within the framework of the Water Law, to reduce salt emissions from this process. The ministry is also encouraging major contributors, such as the food and textile industries, to adopt technologies for the recycling of sodium hydroxide for reuse.
The main sources of air pollution in Israel are energy production, transportation and industry. Since these are largely concentrated in the costal plain, the highest levels of pollution are found in this area.
Israel’s air quality policy is based on the following elements: prevention of air pollution through rational physical planning, monitoring and intermittent control systems, legislation and enforcement, improvement of fuel quality, research, international cooperation, individual treatment of pollution sources, and reduction of emissions from motor vehicles.
Environmental impact statements are required for a wide variety of projects if significant environmental impacts are anticipated (e.g. power plants, mines, quarries and industrial plants located outside industrial zones). Personal decrees have been issued by the Minister of the Environment under the Abatement of Nuisances Law to some 20 major polluters with specific stipulations on how to prevent air pollution.
In order to bring about a significant improvement in air quality throughout the country, a comprehensive new program for the management of air resources in Israel was completed by the Ministry of the Environment in June 1994. The landmark program delineates a two-stage working plan for each of the pollutants emitted by Israel’s major sources of air pollution, including diesel and gasoline-powered vehicles, electric power plants, oil refineries and industrial plants. In the wake of the program, emphasis is being shifted from ambient standards to emission standards, concentration is being focused on the reduction of vehicular emissions, increased attention is being directed at technological solutions to emissions from stationary sources, new efforts are being invested in controlling photochemical smog, steps are being taken to establish a nationwide monitoring network and a national center for the collection, processing and analysis of the findings, and preparations for a comprehensive Clean Air Act are beginning.
The Ministry of the Environment, in cooperation with the Central Bureau of Statistics, has prepared estimates on the countrywide quantities of pollutants emitted into the atmosphere from fuel combustion. Findings indicate that with the exception of three pollutants-sulfur oxides, total particulate matter and lead-emissions increased drastically since 1980. Carbon dioxide emissions increased by 81% in comparison to 1980 levels (to 11.4 million tons), carbon monoxide emissions increased by 128% in the same period (to 647 thousand tons), nitrogen oxides increased by 141% (to 190 thousand tons), and hydrocarbons by 141% (to 82 thousand tons). These rises are attributed to the dramatic increase in vehicle use. On the other hand, sulfur oxide emissions decreased by 11.4% since 1980 (to 273 thousand tons), partially as a result of the partial shift in electricity generation from high-sulfur residual oil to low-sulfur coal in the early 1980s and from the reduction in the average sulfur content of heavy residual oil from 3.5% to 2%. The 18.6% decrease in lead emissions (to 350 tons) is attributed to the reduction in the lead content in gasoline, from 0.42 grams per liter to 0.15 grams per liter.
In order to provide an accurate nationwide picture of air quality, the Ministry of the Environment has prepared a program for a multi million dollar national air monitoring system with a central data storage and display center. The system will include individual stations, regional control centers and a national data processing center. Some 50 additional stations are planned in additional to the 63 stations currently in operation. The project will be implemented over a three-year period with first priority to stations in the Tel Aviv metropolitan area. The results of a tender to select a planner for this project were recently announced.
Urban traffic constitutes a major threat to air quality in Israel. Vehicle density has risen from 34 cars per thousand in 1954 to over 230 in 1993. The number of cars in 1993 reached 1.37 million and will exceed 2 million by the year 2000. Transportation sources are responsible for the bulk of the country’s carbon monoxide pollution and for a large percentage of the concentrations of lead, hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxides and particulates.
To help abate the problem, all new cars imported into the country, beginning with 1995 models, are to be equipped with catalytic converters and the lead content in gasoline has been reduced from 0.42 grams per liter in 1987 to 0.15 grams per liter today. The Ministry of the Environment estimates that by the year 2000, some 50% of the country’s cars will be equipped with catalytic converters.
Emissions from diesel-powered vehicles are a particularly troublesome form of air pollution. While the permitted sulfur concentration in diesel fuel for vehicles was reduced to 0.3% in April 1994, efforts are currently being undertaken to adopt tougher European standards on sulfur content, cetane number, viscosity and density. To facilitate supervision and enforcement, regulations on the prevention of vehicle emissions will be promulgated.
While NOx pollution is severe on the local level, near roads and in busy urban centers such as Tel Aviv, the problem of smog (produced by a photochemical reaction of NOX with hydrocarbons and other elements) is widespread. By the turn of the century concentrations which are double the standard are expected.
To study the scope of the problem, ozone and NOx monitoring stations will be established within the framework of the national air monitoring system, and an instrumented airplane will be used to survey ozone in the center of the country during the summer months for three years.
Thus far, emission standards in Israel have been established within the framework of personal decrees issued under the Abatement of Nuisances Law to over 20 industrial plants. For other plants, specific limits, based on emission standards issued by the Federal Government of Germany, were set within the framework of business licensing conditions. At present, the Ministry of the Environment has completed draft regulations, modeled on the German regulation TA-Luft 1986 and on its Dynamic Concretisation Clauses of 1991, for the following emission standards: total dust
(particulate matter), volatile organic compounds, nitrogen oxides from small and large furnaces, sulfur dioxide from small and large furnaces, vaporous or gaseous inorganic substances, inorganic dust particles and carcinogenic substances.
High levels Of SO2 pollution in the metropolitan areas of Haifa and Ashdod have led to major efforts to control SO2 emissions from the power stations in these cities. Present SO2 control for the oil-fired power plants is based on tall stacks and on the switch to low (up to 1%) and very low (up to 0.5%) sulfur fuel mandated by an intermittent control system during meteorological conditions unfavorable for the dispersion of pollutants. As result of these efforts, the ratio Of SO2 emission to electricity production in 1993 decreased to less than half of its 1981 value. To help attain additional improvements in air quality in the future, the Israel Electric Corporation has decided to install seawater scrubbers in its Haifa and Ashdod power stations.
On the international front, Israel has ratified the Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer, the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer and the London Amendment in June 1992. Since Israel consumes but does not produce CFCs and halons, annual quotas for import have been restricted to the volume of imports recorded in 1986.
Israel is currently investing major efforts in addressing the problem of methyl bromide, a soil fumigant which has been targeted as a potential ozone-depleting substance. Methyl bromide is produced in very large quantities at the Dead Sea Bromide Works, where 90% of production is designated for export. Due to the risks associated with continued methyl bromide use, Israel’s Minister of the Environment appointed a task force in September 1993 to survey the status of methyl bromide use in Israel and worldwide and to present recommendations on emission reductions and alternatives. The committee’s recommendations, published in February 1994, include a wide range of suggestions on reduction of doses, use of alternatives, accelerated research and development of methods for adsorption, neutralization and recycling, legislation, and training and information.
Each person in Israel produces about 1.6 kilograms of solid waste a day. The total quantity of waste produced in the country annually by a population of about 5.3 million is equal to 3.1 million tons-with quantities increasing at an average rate of 2% yearly.
While plans for more effective disposal of solid waste date back some twenty years, solutions to the problem have not been forthcoming. The National Outline Scheme for Solid Waste Disposal, approved in 1989, did not set timetables for new landfills or for shutting down unauthorized dum s. As a result, detailed plans for sanitary landfills were not approved, mostly as a result of local opposition, and over two-thirds of the population remained without a comprehensive solution to solid waste disposal.
In 1993, some 96% of Israel’s domestic waste was landfilled in about 400 waste dumps. Most of the sites were poorly designed and managed; many had reached or are soon to reach full capacity. The growing problem led to a momentous government resolution in June 1993 to expedite the establishment of central landfills, shut down hundreds of illegal waste dumps and create an infrastructure for environmentally-safe solid waste disposal both in the short and long terms. The decision calls for closure of most of the country’s small garbage dumps within the next three years and for their replacement by a few authorized sanitary landfills. The government decision was expressed in an amendment to the National Outline Scheme for Solid Waste Disposal which was approved in May 1994. The amendment calls for the following: the existing landfill sites in Ashdod and Evron (in the western Galilee) will be prepared and equipped to serve as regional sites on a temporary basis (about three years); the existing landfills in Duda’im (northwest of Beersheba) and Talya (in the northern Jordan Valley) will be improved and expanded to serve as central sites for a significant part of the country’s waste; the Hiriya landfill serving the Tel Aviv metropolitan area will be closed by 1995; and a central landfill will be established in Oron, a phosphate quarry in the center of the Negev, in the long term. All landfill sites which appear in the original masterplan will be required to adapt to new state-of-the-art standards in accordance with conditions stipulated by the Ministry of the Environment in their business licenses. Otherwise they will be slated for closure. Operation conditions will include state-of-the-art technologies for every stage of landfilling from siting to post-closure, including sealing, leachate detection, collection, treatment and disposal, methane gas collection and use, proper covering of the waste during operation, closure procedures (landfill capping) and monitoring of possible contamination of groundwater during and after closure. (up to 30 years).
An interministerial committee, headed by the director general of the Ministry of the Environment, has already published tenders for two central sanitary landfills, as a first stage in implementing the plan. The tenders relate to the planning, establishment, operation, closure and rehabilitation of the Duda’im and Talya landfills. Results have already been published for the Duda’im landfill which will be established, operated and closed by a conglomerate of a major American company specializing in landfill operation and three Israeli companies specializing in transport and in solid waste and recycling. The results of the Talya tender will be announced by the end of 1994.
The Ministries of the Environment and Interior are responsible for closing and rehabilitating illegal dump sites and for ensuring that all of Israel’s solid waste will be discarded at authorized landfills. In 1993, 83 illegal dumps were closed; another 70 are scheduled for closure over the next two years. It is estimated that by 1996, some 80% of the country’s waste will be safely discarded at environmentally sound landfills.
The impending closure of hundreds of waste dumps and their replacement by a few regional and central landfills, coupled with increasing requirements for high environmental standards in landfilling, will accelerate the move to low or non-waste technologies and will expedite waste reduction, reuse and recycling options. Israel is promoting research, legislation and pilot projects to promote recycling.
Recycling pilot projects have been set up in 30 local authorities throughout the country. Commercial recycling is continuing in Amnir’s Afula plant in northern Israel. The plant, which began operating in 1989, recycles some 50% of the 110,000 tons of waste it collects yearly.
One of the most successfully-recycled components of the waste stream worldwide – and one of the major components of municipal trash – is paper. In recent years, some 505,000 tons of paper and cardboard were used in Israel, of which 300,000 were imported. The quantity collected for recycling by Amnir Recycling Industries, a subsidiary of American-Israel Paper Mills Ltd., is 140,000-28% of total consumption. Special attention is now concentrated on encouraging the production and marketing of recycled products in order to boost both consumption and production of recycled writing and printing paper. Government offices and the school system are the initial targets of the campaign. A paper collection project geared at government ministries has been in effect for over a year.
Total plastic production in Israel is estimated at 320,000 tons/year, of which only 4.5% derives from recycled material. The plastic industry now recycles about 15,000 tons of thermo-plastic materials per year. In the agricultural sector about 15% (some 5,000 tons/ year) of the polyethylene sheets and pipes are recycled by Amnir – a quantity expected to increase as a result of a regulation obligating the collection of plastic sheets from agriculture for disposal at landfills or recycling plants. Increased efforts are currently being made to encourage the collection and recycling of plastic containers, which constitute some 5-6% of the total volume of waste in Israel. Amnir’s plastic recycling plant in Hadera currently processes some 7000 tons of plastics a year and expects to reach 10,000 within a few years.
Israel’s steel mills produce about 250,000 tons of different grades of steel annually, of which 177,000 are recycled. Additional recycling of metal should be facilitated as a result of a plan to collect, compact and shred wrecked vehicles. The recycling of beverage cans, constituting some 1.5% of the total volume of waste in Israel, has been facilitated as a result of the recent turnover to production of all- aluminum cans by Israel’s sole producer of beverage cans.
Annual consumption of glass stands at about 100,000 tons-with a recycling potential of some 60,000 tons per year. In reality, less than 1% of the country’s glass is recycled. A pilot project to study the collection of glass, mainly from entertainment centers, was initiated in the summer of 1993. The six-month experiment provided important information on the feasibility of the project. Recommendations are to continue the experiment, to transfer the containers to areas in which both commercial centers and residential areas coexist and to increase the scope of education and information campaigns on glass recycling.
It is estimated that scrap tires total about 40,000 tons per year and will reach over 65,000 tons by the year 2000. The readiness of several companies to collect scrap tires from central locations in municipalities for recycling has led to the initiation of a national bid for the collection and environmentally-safe disposal of scrap tires. Local authorities will be required to establish sites for scrap tire collection and used tire producers will convey their wastes to these central sites for collection.
The quantity of used oil in Israel, used by garages and industrial plants, is estimated at 50,000 tons. Of this total, over 15,000 tons are recyclable, but only 7,000 tons are actually recycled today. New regulations prohibiting the pouring, burning or disposal of used oil by garages and other large-scale consumers or producers require the collection of used oil for disposal at recycling facilities or at the hazardous waste site at Ramat Hovav.
About 550,000 of yard waste, brush, leaves, grass clippings and small trunks, are produced in Israel yearly. Chopping of this waste to reduce volume and research on alternative uses (energy production, plywood, substitute for sawdust and straw for animal bedding, compost and mulching) are currently on the agenda.
Since the Maintenance of Cleanliness Law was enacted in 1984, special efforts have centered on involving the general public in implementing the law. An innovative-and effective enforcement feature of the law enables the appointment of cleanliness trustees from the general public, empowered to report on littering offenses. Over the past decade, the number of volunteer cleanliness trustees has risen from several hundred to over 100,000.
Over ten government ministries are responsible for the implementation of over 100 laws and regulations dealing with hazardous substances. While the Ministry of the Environment is the main body responsible for the management of hazardous substances, it coordinates its activities with myriad other organizations.
The Hazardous Substances Law, in force since July 1993, provides the Ministry of the Environment with the long-awaited authority for the control of hazardous substances, including licensing, regulation and supervision of the various aspects of their production, use, handling, storage, marketing, import, export and transport. The administrative means for enforcement established by the law include a licensing requirement, in accordance with the Licensing of Businesses Law, for any premise engaged in the sale of hazardous substances and a poisons permit requirement for any person dealing in toxic substances. The law enables an authorized representative of the Minister of the Environment to enter any premise dealing with hazardous substances, with the exception of pharmacies, for purposes of inspection, investigation or the collection of samples of hazardous substances.
Still another link in the chain of hazardous substances control was completed with the recent promulgation of Licensing of Businesses Regulations on industrial plants handling hazardous substances. The regulations require owners of industrial plants in which hazardous substances are stored, sold, processed or produced (even when the final product is not in itself hazardous) to undertake all necessary measures to treat these materials according to the best available technology and in accordance with manufacturer directions. Owners of plants which handle hazardous materials, in quantities exceeding those defined in the regulations, are required to prepare a file on the treatment of hazardous substances in case of accident.
Israel has thousands of plants which produce, use, store and transport millions of tons of hazardous materials annually. While supervision has been enhanced in recent years, accidents along the production-transport route have continued. In light of the gravity of the issue, an interministerial expert team has consolidated the principles of organization and operation which will guide the bodies taking part in a hazardous substances incident. The team, comprised of representatives of the police, Home Front Command, fire and rescue services, Magen David Adom
(Israel Red Cross), Ministry of the Environment and other government ministries drew up a preliminary model for presentation to the government. In a September 1993 decision, the government called for the establishment of a national system for handling incidents involving hazardous substances. A contingency plan was subsequently prepared, consisting of an integrated action plan specifying the tasks of each body within the framework of the entire system and a specific action plan for the Ministry of the Environment. The plan relates to the structure, organization and activation procedure of each organization and specifies the responsibilities of all bodies within the integrated system.
Broadly speaking, the Home Front Command is responsible for the treatment of incidents involving hazardous substances during emergency or wartime periods; the Israel Police is responsible for commanding and coordinating treatment during normal, non-emergency periods; the fire and emergency services are responsible for dealing with the initial activities at the site of an accident until the arrival of Ministry of the Environment emergency response teams; and these teams are then responsible for detection, monitoring, risk assessment and transfer of the hazardous materials to the Ramat Hovav hazardous waste site.
An information center on hazardous substances was set up within the Ministry of the Environment’s Hazardous Substances Division, in coordination with the existing information center of the Home Front Command. Plans are currently being completed for the unification of these information centers into one centralized Information and Response Center for Hazardous Substances which will supply data on a 24 hour- a-day basis. The center collects data on hazardous materials in every sector, as well as data on safety, detection, identification, alert, treatment and neutralization procedures.
Ramat Hovav, located about 12 kilometers south of Beersheba, serves at the country’s national center for hazardous waste disposal and treatment. Quantities of hazardous wastes which reach the site have increased from 7,000 tons in 1985 to 48,500 tons in 1993. This figure is actually much higher since in-house recycling has been undertaken in recent years by a large manufacturer of pesticides, fungicides and agrochemicals which previously disposed some 20,000 tons of hazardous waste annually at the Ramat Hovav site.
In recent years, problems related to both siting and operation of the hazardous waste center have emerged. As a result, the Minister of the Environment took a landmark decision to close Ramat Hovav and to open a new site to serve as Israel’s central site for the disposal and treatment of hazardous waste. Five alternative sites in the south of the country are being examined. A final decision on sating will be taken after careful consideration and review by a hydrogeological committee of the Ministry of the Environment. An international tender will then be published to select the company which will establish and operate the site.
Current plans call for the purchase of an incinerator for the Ramat Hovav site which will be capable of burning about 15,000 tons of organic materials per year to rid the area of the large amount of organic material which has accumulated over the years, estimated at 40,000 tons. After the opening of the new site, an incinerator will be purchased to serve its needs and the existing site will be cleaned, neutralized and covered.
Marine Water and Coasts
Israel’s Mediterranean and Red Sea coastlines are among the country’s most valuable assets. Marine pollution prevention along Israel’s coastlines is carried out by highly-skilled professional inspectors. They carry out marine and coastal surveillance and make routine inspections of vessels calling at ports, shore installations handling oil, industrial plants, and wastewater treatment plants in local authorities. In addition to serving a deterrent function, Israel’s marine pollution inspectors investigate violations of the law by vessels or coastal facilities and file legal charges where warranted.
Dozens of reports on marine oil pollution reach the Ministry of the Environment each year, involving anywhere from a few liters to dozens of tons of oil. Pollution on the Mediterranean is generally attributed to oil discharge from vessels and tankers, oil leakage from marine fueling facilities and oil discharge from land-based sources. Pollution in the Gulf of Eilat generally results from oil discharged by tankers, ships and smaller vessels such as yachts.
Eilat’s capacity for marine pollution control was dramatically improved with the inauguration in 1991 of a newly expanded pollution control and response center, manned 24-hours-a-day. The station is located on the shore north of the coral reserve to prevent oil spills from reaching the reserve by the prevailing northerly winds. The moment a spill occurs, the unit mobilizes to intervene and contain the spill with booms so that it can be skimmed offshore.
The Gulf of Eilat’s pollution control capabilities will be further expanded in the near future as a result of progress achieved within the framework of the multilateral peace talks on the environment. In view of the sensitivity and importance of this area, Israel, Jordan and Egypt have agreed to cooperate in combating pollution in the Gulf of Aqaba. A contingency plan has been prepared whereby pollution control equipment will be based in Aqaba, Eilat and Nueiba to enable quick response and cooperafion in protecting the environment.
Due to the lack of sufficient resources, stockpiles of equipment along the Mediterranean coast do not exist. Consequently, the methodology thus far has been to wait until the spill reaches the shore where it is cleaned using manual and mechanical recovery techniques. Bioremediation has been successfully used for shore cleanup in a few cases in recent years, using an Israeli development based on oil-eating bacteria.
The Ministry of the Environment has issued guidelines on the use of advanced (third and fourth generation) dispersants in the Mediterranean. Use of such dispersants requires the prior written authorization of the director general of the Ministry of the Environment and must be carried out under the supervision and guidance of the ministry’s marine pollution control inspectors. Requirements for dispersant use have been set.
Within the framework of the Regional Marine Pollution Emergency Response Center for the Mediterranean Sea and the International Maritime Organization, Cyprus, Egypt and Israel have prepared a subregional agreement for preparedness and cooperation in response to medium and large-scale oil spills. Each state will have a stockpile of marine pollution abatement equipment which would be put at one another’s disposal in case of a spill in open waters. Using their joint forces, the states will be able to deal with a spill of up to 15,000 tons.
Based on the recommendations of a UNEP and IMO expert mission to Israel in the summer of 1993, two oil pollution combating centers will be established in Haifa and Ashkelon in the near future, capable of dealing with spills of up to 4000 tons.
Dumping of waste into the sea from a vessel or aircraft is regulated through a strict permit system instituted in 1984. Thus far, only three types of dumping have been authorized pending compliance with specific requirements: dumping of coal ash by the Israel Electric Corporation, dumping of industrial sludge by Haifa Chemicals and, to a lesser degree, dumping of saturated saline solutions by Frutarom in Haifa Bay.
As a result of strict enforcement of the Prevention of Marine Pollution
(Land-Based Sources) Law and its regulations, several major industrial plants have either halted the discharge of their waste or discharge their effluents in accordance with strict international standards. Law enforcement is also focused on local authorities, most notably Nahariya and Acre, which still discharge untreated or minimally- treated sewage into the sea, and Ra’anana, which discharges its sewage through the Poleg River. In recent years, investigations against offenders of the law were initiated and, in some cases, legal charges were pressed.
With very few exceptions, Israel’s authorized bathing beaches comply with the requirements incorporated in a 1992 standard for seawater quality, based on the most stringent criteria worldwide.
Local authorities are responsible for the routine cleaning of all authorized bathing beaches in Israel, but these beaches constitute only a small percentage of the Mediterranean coastline (25 kilometers). Since 1984, the Ministry of the Environment has financed the cleaning of all open beaches twice during each bathing season. In recent years, several large- scale volunteer cleanup drives, including thousands of volunteers, have been undertaken. This year, a unique innovation was introduced-an underwater cleanup in Eilat.
The Environment Ministry’s noise prevention policy rests on three foundations: development of emission and ambient standards; collection of data and mapping of existing and potential noise sources; and treatment of existing noise sources side by side with prevention of potential sources.
By far the greatest source of noise in urban areas is the car. New vehicles purchased in Israel must meet noise standards comparable to those set by the European Union, but once they leave the showroom, cars are not subject to noise requirements. Steps are being taken to incorporate noise tests in obligatory annual inspections using appropriate equipment. Progress has been made in the abatement of motorcycle noise as a result of cooperation between the Ministry of the Environment and the police. Motorcycles which exceed the standard are fined or taken off the road until a retest proves compliance with the regulations. In busy urban areas, where residential units are adjacent to traffic arteries, complaints concerning noise reach 80% of total complaints regarding environmental nuisances.
To fill the void until establishment of an obligatory standard for roadside noise, the Ministry of the Environment has adopted the standards set by the U.S. Federal Highway Administration as criteria for road planning and adjacent land uses. The recommendations, which set a maximal noise level of 67 dB(A) for roads planned near residential areas, are incorporated in environmental impact statements prepared for road construction. They have been fully adopted by planning authorities responsible for the approval of road plans. An advisory committee on noise standards has recently submitted its recommendations for a maximal noise level of 64 dB(A) for new roads and adjacent land uses.
Results of road monitoring in the Tel Aviv area have revealed noise levels in the 75-80 dB(A) range in several busy intersections. Since the proposed standard does not apply to existing traffic arteries, other means must be undertaken to minimize the noise-reduction of noise at source, proper traffic management and control at the receptor level-as well as wise land-use planning, acoustic barriers and acoustic insulation.
Unlike traffic noise, aircraft noise impact wide areas well beyond the airport itself, both in terms of nuisances and conflicting land uses Israel’s major airport, Ben-Gurion International is situated in the midst of the densely populate coastal plain, encompassing the metropolitan area of Tel Aviv, various towns and rural areas. Other noise sources include the airports in Eilat, Herzliya and Sde Dov. Noise mitigation measures have been proposed for each airport.
To assess aircraft noise, the Ministry of the Environment and the Israel Airports Authority employ the model developed by the U.S. Federal Aviation Authority which uses three parameters to measure the level of exposure: noise level in decibels; number of flights during the day; and number of flights at night. The resulting unit of measurement is called Day-Night Leverage (LDN). The ministry’s guidelines recommend that construction be limited in areas exposed to noise levels exceeding 60 LDN and that aviation facilities should not be sited in areas where sound levels exceed this figure and noise-sensitive residential or institutional areas are affected. Only when alternatives are unavailable is acoustic treatment of buildings considered. The guidelines have largely been adopted in the National Outline Scheme for Airports, recently submitted to the National Planning and Building Board for approval.
In view of its size and unique problems, a separate masterplan was drawn up for Ben-Gurion International Airport. The masterplan includes an abatement of nuisances plan with specific directives on land uses in areas surrounding the airport and recommendations on the adoption of regulations for noise restriction according to the guidelines of the International Civil Aviation Organization. The noise abatement regulations are enforced by means of a monitoring system around the airport which includes seven remote noise monitoring terminals with real-time data collection capability and a central control and monitoring system to correlate noise violations with flight data.
Noise generated by televisions, stereos, air conditioners and alan-ns constitutes an important factor in noise pollution. In Israel’s mild climate, the problem is exacerbated since families spend time outdoors and leave the windows open when at home. Noise abatement regulations establish permissible noise levels by type of neighborhood, time of day and duration of noise. Recent regulations also relate to background noise, impulsive noise, infrequent explosive noise and pure tones in the spec trum.
Supervision of radiation safety is based on the Pharmacists Regulations
(Radioactive Elements and Products Thereof). The regulations prohibit the purchase, distribution, transport and application of radioactive materials and other radiation sources unless a special license has been issued by an authorized radiation officer, appointed by the Minister of Health, with respect to radiation for medical purposes, or by the Minister of the Environment with respect to "cradle to grave" control of radiation in all other sectors. The regulations encompass all components of radiation-both ionizing and non-ionizing. Special condifions may be attached to the permit to ensure environmental safety and public health; a permit may be canceled if these special conditions are not kept.
The Ministry of the Environment is responsible for granting permits to users of radioactive elements in the civil sector and its radiation inspectors carry out inspections in all radiation facilities.
Israel’s primary concern in the management of low-level radioactive waste produced by hospitals, research laboratories and institutions, and industrial and agricultural premises is population safety and environmental protection. The authority for radioactive waste management in Israel is the radiation officer appointed by the Minister of the Environment under the Pharmacists Regulations on radioactive elements. The regulations authorize the officer to issue a license for waste disposal services, after consulting with the Israeli Atomic Energy Commission. The license limits the amount of radioactive material purchased by the institute and approves the nomination of an internal radiation official responsible for the appropriate handling of radioactive waste inside the facility.
The Ministry of the Environment operates a computerized database management system on radioactive materials, with data on licensing, import and distribution, waste disposal and transportation.
To provide routine assessments of background radiation levels, five radiation monitoring stations operate in Israel. The most recent station was set up in Dimona, adjacent to the Nuclear Research Center, as part of the Ministry of the Environment’s policy of freely providing environmental information to the public. Information from all of the stations is relayed, in real-time, to the central control station of the Ministry of the Environment, which operates on a 24-hour-per-day basis.
The Ministry of the Environment also conducts a representative random sampling of seasonal vegetables, fruits, milk and meat in three areas of the country and tests water samples from the National Water Carrier.
The ministry has prepared guidelines for citizens on radon exposure. Radon surveys have been conducted throughout the country and the ministry has assisted several bodies in analyzing the results of radon exposure risks, especially in educational institutes. The authorized radiation officer in the Ministry of the Environment is responsible for granting permits for radon inspection to commercial companies, according to criteria established by the Radiation Division. Results of measurements conducted by private companies are transferred to the Ministry of the Environment to facilitate the development of a database on radon concentrations in Israel.
Since no standards restricting population exposure to radio wave radiation exists in Israel, the Ministry of the Environment has published a policy paper based on the standard set by the International Radiation Pro ion Association. New facilities emitting radio waves are restricted to 1/3 of the IRPA standards and existing facilities are restricted to 2/3 of the IRPA standard. In the case of exposure to electric and magnetic fields in the network frequency from high voltage lines and transformer stations, the ministry has adopted the IRPA standard which restricts public exposure to electromagnetic fields in the network frequency for 24 hours a day to 1000 mG and to 4kV/m, accordingly.
The ministry also supervises companies which monitor microwave radiation, both for home microwave ovens and in radar and communication systems. It has prepared standards and procedures on equipment emitting ultraviolet radiation.