The ecological disaster in the Ashalim Stream, west of the Dead Sea, is the latest polluting incident caused by the Rotem Amfert fertilizer plant.
Adam Teva V'Din demands to hold the company accountable for their infamous track record of environmental violations once and for all and calls on the State to take concrete steps to ensure that industrial needs don’t come at the expense of Israel's sensitive desert region.
Location of Rotem Amfert Fertilizer Plant, west of the Dead Sea.
Nature reserves in Israel's southern region have repeatedly been victims of routine industrial pollution.
The latest ecological disaster occurred earlier this month when over 26.4 million gallons of toxic acid waste (enough to fill 40 Olympic pools) surged through the Judean desert and into the Ashalim Stream when the wall of a reservoir at the Rotem Amfert Fertilizer Plant collapsed.
The 12 mile (20 km) toxic torrent wreaked havoc in the highly sensitive region: wildlife and fauna are already suffering the consequences and hikers are prohibited from entering the toxic nature reserve.
Experts believe that the scale of the ecological disaster exceeds initial assessments and estimate that it will take years to rehabilitate the fragile region:
The Ministry of Environment has subsequently opened a criminal investigation into the factory owner, Rotem Amfert, and its parent company Israel Chemicals (ICL), which has the exclusive rights to mine minerals from the Dead Sea.
Ongoing leaks from Rotem Amfert's reservoirs lead to sharp rise in salinity of water at Ein Bokek nature reserve.
This is not the first environmental disaster the company is responsible for. Rotem Amfert, a company that makes phosphate-based fertilizers, is infamously ranked as one of the top five polluting industries in Israel.
For decades it has been the culprit of chronic environmental negligence in the Dead Sea region: in Ein Zin, Ein Akrabim, Ein Bokek and now in the Ashalim Stream.
"This is the last in a long line of negligent behavior of Rotem Amfert which is responsible for the devastation of some of the most beautiful oases in the Judean desert and Negev.
Sarit Caspi-Oron, Adam Teva V'Din water scientist
This serial polluter has already polluted a large section of the Judean desert's aquifer – an area which doesn’t have too many water sources to begin with. If they carry on in a business as usual approach, the next environmental disaster is just a matter of time. As far as we understand, most of their reservoirs are leaking or, even worse, are under threat of sudden collapse.
The time has come to hold Rotem Amfert accountable for their infamous track record of environmental negligence and to force them to overhaul their infrastructure if they want to continue their operations" – Sarit Caspi-Oron, Adam Teva V'Din water scientist
To make matters worse, industrial activities in the region are expected to increase. Despite the fact that existing plants fail to meet environmental regulations, plans to expand Rotem Amfert's activities are awaiting approval from the Southern District Planning Committee.
Adam Teva V'Din staff at site of crude oil spill in Evrona nature reserve.
While the Ministry of Environmental Protection has opened a criminal investigation against the company, experience has taught us that an investigation is not enough!
In 2014, Israel experienced its most devastating environmental disaster when 31,000 barrels of crude oil spewed into the Evrona nature reserve, when the Trans-Israel pipeline was damaged during construction work. Following the spill, a criminal investigation was also opened against the polluter, the Eilat Ashkelon Pipeline Company (EAPC), which is responsible for six oil leaks in eight years. Three years on, the company still has not been held accountable for the disaster.
Thanks to Adam Teva V'Din's petition to the High Court of Justice, an outdated status of secrecy surrounding all environmental and planning aspects of EAPC’s operations was removed, leading to heightened transparency on activities which directly affect the public’s health and environment.
Ashalim Stream before the acid spill.
In both instances, the State allowed industrial giants to use the desert's unique natural resources. Now it is obligated to do everything it can to ensure that industrial needs don’t come at the expense of Israel's sensitive desert region.
That's why Adam Teva V'Din is calling on the government to take the following actions:
We can't do it without your help! You helped us make EAPC's environmental operations more transparent. Now you can help us hold another serial polluter accountable for decades of environmental pollution.
Here's how you can help: