Zalul, the nation’s leading environmental advocacy organization focusing on seas and rivers, said the state of Israel’s waterways were “alarming” and that government oversight was “inadequate.”
The study reveals that most of the country’s rivers and the Mediterranean Sea contain harmful contaminants, heavy metals and pathogens, and are polluted by sewage.
The study discloses that seasonal monitoring by the Ministry of Health is hardly adequate to assess the water quality and public health where sewage, pollution and bacterial contaminants abound. Although Israel issues limits on how much and what kind of discharge is permissible in its waterways, the Ministry of Health does not make this information easily and fully available to the public, which should be a of concern to swimmers, inhabitants, tourists and those who use these waterways.
According to the study, approximately 75 percent of the marine pollution in Israel today comes from land-based sources such as industrial waste and sanitary sewage directly discharged into the Mediterranean Sea and Israel’s rivers. The Ministry of Health mainly conducts monitoring of water quality at authorized beaches during the summer swimming season, but only sporadically other times of the year.
“Our study shows there are dangerous levels of contamination and deterioration at the majority of our beaches, which should be alarming to our government and business leaders. Yet, there is no standard for the bacterial quality of bathing water in Israel,” said Zalul Managing Director Yariv Abramovich, Esq. “The quality, cleanliness, and the safety of water should be a constant preoccupation, not only from the standpoint of health, but also because maintaining the purity of Israel’s seas and rivers are critical as they are major tourist attractions and should be a source of pride to the whole country.”
Zalul’s study suggests bacterial monitoring must be conducted at beaches located near the estuaries of the coastal rivers and the results made public. To improve the quality sea water in Israel, those organizations discharging contaminants must be identified and action taken against them. The report also cites that higher levels of bacterial contamination are acceptable to Israel, exceeding those that are permitted by other countries, notably in the United States.
The study also identifies the Kishon River as the most polluted of all coastal rivers, where concentrations of metals in the sediments in its upper region reaches the salty segment, representing an elevated degree of pollution. In recent years, numerous measures have been taken to stop discharge of municipal wastewater to the sea. However, today, cities such as Akko lack a municipal sewage treatment facility.
Zalul recommends that aggressive public action be taken to promote stricter legislation for the bacterial quality of the seawater and rivers. As advocates for cleaner, safer, and healthier water, Zalul hopes to garner a critical mass of public involvement and support to elevate water preservation and environmental protection to the forefront of the public agenda.
“Concern for the environment in Israel has been unfortunately put on the back burner of the public agenda, as the nation focused on growing its industrial strength. This is indeed an important priority, but as other develop nation’s throughout the world have been able to manage sustainable development, there is no reason Israel cannot do so as well,” Abramovich added.
Zalul was founded in 1999 as a multi-disciplinary organization dedicated to protecting Israel’s seas and rivers. It is comprised of professionals from various fields including academia, environmental specialists, lawyers, public relations experts and lobbyists. During that time, they have fought vigorously to defend the seas and rivers from industrial and municipal polluters. More than 3,000 Israelis support their work by participating in rallies, letter writing and government outreach activities. For more information please visit zalul.org.