A Haifa court has issued a writ ordering Haifa Chemicals to empty its ammonia tank within ten days. The writ was issued in response to a suit filed by Haifa Municipality against the company.
The suit was filed following the publication of a scientific report commissioned by the municipality. The report was prepared by a blue ribbon committee of senior Technion faculty.
The report stated that the current situation poses a clear and present danger to the entire Haifa metropolitan area. The danger is posed both by the tank itself, and the ship bringing the ammonia, which dock once a month. The tank is above ground, and not protected against either earthquakes (the Carmel is a seismically active area) or a missile attack, which terror group Hezbollah threatened last year to send. The ship itself is also vulnerable while in the port. The tank holds 12,000 tons of ammonia, a highly toxic gas.
The report clearly states than in case of any mishap, whether due to a terror attack or a natural disaster, the result would be a toxic cloud that could kill thousands to tens of thousands of the area’s residents before they had a chance to evacuate, depending on the prevailing winds at the time.
The report also states that Israel’s needs require no more than 3,000 tons. Most of the ammonia is used in the manufacture of fertilizers and other chemical products which are exported. In effect Israel allows the importing of a highly hazardous material which is then re-exported as fertilizer.
Such factory are usually located in fairly remote locations, not in the middle of a densely populated metropolitan area of an OECD member country.
Haifa Municipality, the Ministry of Environmental Affairs and civic and environmental activists welcomed the decision, which they described as long overdue.
Haifa Chemicals let loose a broadside against Haifa Mayor Yona Yahav, accusing him of misleading the public by publishing a “obsolete report based on incomplete research and irrelevant data”.