Haifa Chemicals Agrees to Curb Kishon Pollution

June 21, 2000 -- E-LAW advocates in Israel won a victory that will clean up Israel`s waterways. For years, Haifa Chemicals, a manufacturer of phosphate fertilizer, had been discharging 1.5 million tons of toxic effluents into the Kishon River annually. Man Nature and Law (Adam Tevah V`Din in Hebrew), pressed criminal charges against Haifa to stop this egregious pollution in 1996.

At that time, E-LAW U.S. sent U.S. regulations, information about the best available technologies for the industry, research on the corporation, and the environmental and health impacts of this contamination. Lawyers used this information to negotiate a settlement with the company to drastically reduce its discharge of toxic pollutants.

Since the settlement, the company has failed to comply with several provisions of the settlement and Adam Tevah V`Din considered taking the company back to court. Last week, the company announced that it will go beyond local regulations to curb toxic effluents.

The text of an article that ran in Ha`aretz newspaper follows.

June 21, 2000


By Zafrir Rinat
Ha`aretz Correspondent

Haifa Chemicals, one of the main polluters of the Kishon River, this week promised an environmental organization that it would significantly curb its flow of poisonous and carcinogenic waste, an unprecedented pledge from an Israeli industrial concern.

Two days ago, Haifa Chemicals told the Man, Nature, and Law group (Adam Tevah V`Din hosts E-LAW Israel) that over the next 18 months it would cut the amounts of cadmium, mercury, lead, and chromium it has long pumped into the river.

Environmentalists have pointed to exposure to Kishon River water as the likely source of the high prevalence of cancer in veterans of an elite navy commando unit that trained there.

A recent government study found that Haifa Chemicals pumped 5,000-7,000 cubic meters of waste into the river daily.

Six years ago, Man, Nature and Law joined a group of fishermen in lodging a complaint against the waste disposal practices of Haifa Chemicals and its executives. Following a court hearing, the firm promised to lower its level of pollutant waste within several years, and to allocate about $750,000 to finance a fund to foster environmental concerns in the Haifa area.

Attorneys for the environmental group recently threatened to take Haifa Chemicals to court for failing to hold to the timetable for waste reduction, whereupon the firm agreed to the new undertakings, as well as payment of a $342,000 fine for violating the original accord.

Haifa Chemicals told the group in a Sunday letter that it would keep its levels of pollutants as low as promised even if that meant closing production lines or other plant facilities. The firm said it had already lowered poisonous metal effluents by 40 percent over past levels.

It will also allow a Man, Nature, and Law representative to perform on-site monitoring of plant practices, and take samples at all times of the waste flowing into the river.

The environmental group has attacked the Environment Ministry for displaying what it termed a lenient attitude toward the industrial concerns that pollute the Kishon. It cited Haifa Chemicals as proof that industrial firms can be made to adhere to stringent waste treatment standards.