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Israeli Ship Dumps Toxins in Mediterranean

From Greenpeace

Nicosia, Cyprus, 18 June 1998 - Greenpeace activists in inflatables intercepted the Israeli ship "Aribel" while it was pumping toxic sludge into international waters off Haifa. The dumped material is very acidic and contains heavy metals such as zinc, cadmium and mercury. This is the only known systematic toxic dumping in the world.(1)

Two Greenpeace inflatables marked the danger area with stick lights alongside the Aribel. The activists in both inflatbles held banners calling for the dumping to stop and called on the dumper's radio demanding that it stops and returns to Haifa port. The Aribel ignored the Greenpeace activists and continued with its nighttime dumping.

The activists chartered a boat for the peaceful action. The boat took off from Cyprus on June 14 and waited in the open sea until activists in Israel informed them that the Aribel left Haifa Port on Tuesday night. Greenpeace then proceeded to carry out a peaceful direct action on the dumper to bring the issue to world attention. They flew a banner that read "Danger - Toxic Dumping Zone." The dumping has recently begun to take place at night, which according to Greenpeace is an attempt to hide evidence of this outdated polluting practice.

"For the first time the dumping operation has been documented at sea and the blackish sludge photographed and filmed to show the world how reckless the US-owned Haifa Chemicals is when it comes to the Mediterranean Sea," said Mario Damato, executive director of Greenpeace's Mediterranean office, after he led the action on the Aribel.

"This polluting practice would not be allowed along the US coastline, so why is it okay to do it in the Mediterranean?"

Greenpeace is appealing to the Israeli government to end the regular dumping of toxic sludge in the Mediterranean Sea in line with the spirit of the current United Nations-declared "Year of the Oceans." The international environmental organisation has been campaigning against Israeli sea dumping since 1994. The Israeli authorities twice promised to stop only to renew the dumping permit just as it was about to expire.

Israeli Minister of Environment Rafael Eitan allowed the US-owned Haifa Chemicals to dump another 60,000 tons of toxic sludge in the Mediterranean until next October. (2)

Every time a sea-dumping permit is again issued, the authorities claim a solution will be implemented soon. The Israeli authorities also claim that the sludge of Haifa Chemicals, is "treated remains of potash rock."

Scientific test results carried out by the Greenpeace International laboratory at Exeter University in England prove beyond doubt that samples taken from the Aribel also contain toxic chemicals like polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), alkylated benzenes and haloganated alkanes. Dumping of such material leads to serious pollution of local sea zones and negatively impactc the marine ecosystems. (3)

"The sludge is so toxic that the company is not allowed to pump it into the already very polluted Kishon River near Haifa. It is an insult to all the people living in the region, especially Cyprus, Egypt and Lebanon to see this poison being dumped in international waters in their vicinity. Israeli citizens are the most directly effected, but pollution knows no borders," said Damato.

"We call upon all Mediterranean states to help us stop this dumping and for them to stop the pollution their own industry is creating in the fragile Mediterranean Sea," he added.

"The sea dumping must stop once and for all. Haifa Chemicals must finally implement clean production methods eliminating the production of toxic materials at source," Damato demanded.

NOTES

  1. Israel is the only country known to be allowing routine dumping operations of industrial wastes at sea in the world. The London Convention (1972), the international treaty that regulates the dumping of wastes worldwide, bans the dumping of industrial wastes from ships globally. Israel has not ratified this treaty. The dumping of industrial wastes from ships is also prohibited by the Barcelona Convention's 1995 protocol that regulates Ocean dumping in the Mediterranean. But Israel has not signed it because of its ongoing sea dumping operations.
  2. Israeli Minister of Environment Rafael Eitan broke his promise to stop all sea dumping when his ministry again gave dumping permits to Haifa Chemicals. Eitan promised last July that all sea dumping in Israel would stop by the end of 1997. This public statement came shortly after activists from the Greenpeace ship Sirius towed away from Haifa port one of three barges used by Haifa Chemicals to regularly dump toxic sludge in the sea. Former Environment Minister Yossi Sarid had also broken a promise to end the sea dumping.
  3. Three samples from the Kishon River mud and two from the tank of the ship Aribel in Haifa Port were taken by Greenpeace activists on April 13, before the ship dumped its toxic content in the Mediterranean Sea. In addition, the samples from the Aribel contained toxic chemicals like polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), alkylated benzenes and haloganated alkanes. Cadmium, mercury, crude oil and hydrocarbons which may be derived from petroleum, and any mixture containing these, are included in the Barcelona Convention "Protocol for the Prevention of Pollution of the Mediterranean Sea by Dumping from Ships and Aircraft" (UNEP 1992, 1995). According to this protocol, the dumping of such wastes in the Mediterranean is prohibited. Only Monaco and Tunisia ratified this protocol. Israel and all other states in the basin did not do so.


For more information contact Zeina Al-Hajj, Greenpeace Medterraneaon, Lebanon, [email protected] or visit the Greenpeace web site at http://www.greenpeace.org.




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