21/03/2016
The Ministry of Environmental Protection (MoEP) is recommending that people refrain from swimming in the sea at Palmachim and Nitzanim Beaches, after the water there started to turn yellow on March 13th. The Israel Oceanographic and Limnological Research Institution in Haifa tested a sample of seawater taken by an MoEP inspector, and confirmed that the yellow color was the result of a high concentration of Cyanobacteria – sometimes known as blue-green algae – and Asterionessopsis glaciali. While Asterionessopsis glaciali is not toxic, it is as yet unclear if the species of Cyanobacteria in the sea is toxic.

Cyanobacteria Photo: Dr. Eyal Rahav, Israel Oceanographic and Limnological Research Institution

Yellow Seawater at Palmachim Beach the Result of Bacteria
Cyanobacteria
Photo: Dr. Eyal Rahav, Israel Oceanographic and Limnological Research Institution

​A sample from the water was taken after reports were published that it was yellow, and people who swam in Palmachim felt a burning sensation and smelled a pungent odor. The yellow color was present from March 13-19th.

There were concerns that the algae was toxic, and was the result of the discharge of effluents from the Sorek Wastewater Treatment Plant, which contain nutrients that spark algae growth. This is as yet unconfirmed, but tests are being conducted to determine whether this is the case.

The ministry notes that people should avoid contact with water containing Cyanobacteria, and should avoid swallowing it. This is true regardless of whether the Cyanobacteria is a result of an effluent discharge or natural spring blossoms.

The ministry also reminds people that they should only swim on authorized beaches (those with lifeguards), and only in accordance with the lifeguard’s instructions.