The Environmental Protection Ministry announced Monday that it would fine the army NIS 4 million ($1.08 million) for failing to properly treat and remove harmful asbestos from a base near Beersheba. This is the first time ever that a government ministry has placed financial sanctions on the IDF.

A year and a half ago, while doing construction work at the base, a bulldozer accidentally knocked over a tree that hit a building that contained the harmful substance. Instead of notifying the ministry and activating protocols to assess the health risk to people on the base, as required by law, the base commanders decided to deal with the issue themselves and ordered the asbestos removed to a different part of the base.

Prolonged exposure to asbestos fibers can cause serious diseases, including lung cancer.

“When something like this happens, they must inform us and take immediate action, due to the health risks,” a source at the ministry told Maariv. “The site should have been shut down at once.”

According to the report, a year and a half after the incident, the asbestos has still not been removed from the base and the ministry decided to take action.

“Placing fines on the military is unprecedented, but we are not willing to accept such disregard for the law, which endangers the public,” said Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan.

The IDF said in response that the army was familiar with the incident, had notified the ministry, and was taken care of the matter.