Acid leak threatens plants, wildlife in Judean Desert
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Acid leak threatens plants, wildlife in Judean Desert

Israel Nature and Parks Authority closes nature reserve, tells hikers to stay away; ‘contamination will take years to clear,’ says official

The muddy Ashalim stream flowing on Friday, June 30 2017 after acidic water leaked from a fertilizer plant nearby. (Environment Protection Ministry)
The muddy Ashalim stream flowing on Friday, June 30 2017 after acidic water leaked from a fertilizer plant nearby. (Environment Protection Ministry)

Large quantities of acid from a leaking storage pool in the Judean Desert flowed into the Ashalim stream, near the Dead Sea, authorities said late Friday. Police closed down the Judean Desert nature reserve, and environmental authorities were pouring fresh water into the stream in an effort to reduce the acidity level and mitigate the ecological disaster.

The Environment Protection Ministry said that the acidic water leaked from a pool belonging to the Rotem Fertilizers company after one of its walls collapsed.

The acid flowed toward Route 90 and the Dead Sea. Police closed off a section of the road for part of Friday evening to enable environmental authorities to tackle the flow of acid.

A worker at the Arad rescue unit called the leak an “ecological disaster — pollution that will take years to clear away.”

Gilad Gabay, director of the Southern District from the Nature and Parks Authority, told Channel 2: “These are very acidic waters that leaked from the plant and are harming animals and plants. It’s a stream with little pools, and animals in the area drink from these waters. This will also create long-term damage that will necessitate a lengthy rehabilitation, since these waters stay in the ground and seep and they may affect other regions.”

The muddy Ashalim stream flowing on Friday, June 30 2017 after acidic water leaked from a fertilizer plant nearby. (Screen capture Channel 2)
The muddy Ashalim stream flowing on Friday, June 30, 2017 after acidic water leaked from a fertilizer plant nearby. (Screen capture Channel 2)

“At this stage we are working on the ground with other authorities in order to minimize harm to natural resources, and especially harm to hikers, since every contact with these waters is dangerous,” Gabay added.

The authority told hikers not to come to the area “until further notice.”

“At this stage we assess that the part of the stream contaminated is more than 10 kilometers [6 miles] long,” Gabay said.

The company that owns Rotem Fertilizers, Israel Chemicals, said that the breach in the pool was discovered Friday morning. “At this stage the company cannot assess the environmental impact of the leak,” Israel Chemicals said.

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