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EPA Sends Technical Experts to Israel's Negev Desert

Release Date: 12/19/2005
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(#05151) NEW YORK -- A team of technical experts coordinated by the New York City regional offices of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has just returned from Israel where they consulted with Dr. Avishay Braverman, President of Ben-Gurion University in the Negev, on the Ramat Hovav chemical manufacturing and hazardous waste disposal site. Dr. Braverman is the mediator appointed to resolve the dispute between the Israeli Ministry of Environment and local manufacturers regarding the Ministry's requirements for treating industrial waste. The goal of the visit was to help the Israelis address the issue of severe pollution sources at the Ramat Hovav site.

"This trip was an opportunity for EPA to use its technical knowledge and experience to help Israel avoid environmental problems that could become harmful to the health of local residents," said Regional Administrator Alan J. Steinberg. "This mission gave our experts the opportunity to learn from and share with our Israeli colleagues."

The Israeli government established the Ramat Hovav industrial zone in 1975, approximately 12 kilometers south of Beersheba. The rationale behind the decision was to concentrate the heavy chemical industry of Israel's southern region at a single site, distant from populated areas. Over the past decade, a range of measures have been taken to improve the quality of water, air and soil in the Ramat Hovav area and upgrade the storage, treatment, disposal and incineration of the hazardous substances and waste emanating from the industrial plants. At the end of 2002, the Ministry of
Environment determined that the central biological wastewater treatment plant in Ramat Hovav was incapable of treating the industrial wastewater to required levels. Sewage discharges caused the emission of airborne pollutants as well as severe odor problems.

EPA sent experts in hazardous waste, air compliance, and ground water compliance to Israel for a week in December to discuss technical details of the Ramat Hovav site. Representatives from the Ministry of Environment, local companies, and the mediator worked with the group to identify the most pressing issues, and develop ideas for addressing them in an environmentally responsible manner.