A month ago, Israeli airlines suffered from a jet fuel contamination, grounding flights, and causing chaos as officials tried to figure out if planes loaded with the contaminated fuel would be damaged. This past Wednesday, there is another chapter in the country’s jet fuel saga. Some 1.5 million liters of jet fuel (about 400,000 gallons) spilled out into the desert, as a tractor ran over and damaged the Eilat-Ashkelon Pipeline. The jet fuel spilled out into a nature reserve, calling into question the legitimacy of running pipelines through protected areas. If the jet fuel seeps into the groundwater it can be especially damaging, and exposure to it can be linked to cancers, such as Hodgkin’s Disease. Boeing was fined more than $100,000 last year when it failed to report a jet fuel spill in a timely manner in the United States. About 300 gallons were spilled in the Seattle areas, equal to about 1,100 liters of fuel. And in Israel where the spill was larger by two orders of magnitude, one would expert the fines to be in the millions.
The experts say the spill could take weeks to clean, according to the Jerusalem Post, but there was no mention of fines or accountability for the mistake.It’s particularly serious as the jet fuel poured into a pristine nature area called Nahal Zin.
“This is one of the largest soil contaminations to occur in the last year in Israel,” Guy Samet, manager of the Environmental Protection Ministry’s southern district said: “It’s not just typical soil pollution – it’s in a very sensitive area.”
“We see the event as extremely severe, particularly regarding the damage caused to natural treasures in the reserve,” said Eli Amitai, director of Nature and Parks Authority. “As soon as we heard news of the leak and its severity we summoned dozens of inspectors and officials into the area.”
Raviv Shapira, director of the southern district of the Nature and Parks Authority said: “The damage is tremendous – beyond the contamination on the surface and in the burrows of wildlife in the area, a big part of the fuel seeped into the ravine, and the Environmental Protection Ministry has already begun to assess the damage and the extent of rehabilitation necessary. It is also investigating the circumstances of this grave event.”
Last weekend, there were two oil spills to hit the shores of Israel’s southernmost city of Eilat on the Red Sea.
Greenpeace in Israel called the events a catastrophe. And other local activists are calling for laws and reform before drilling for natural gas resumes off the Mediterranean Coast.
My question is who is going to pay for this mistake? Environmental laws in Israel mean polluters get fined, but collecting those fines are a different story.
Read more on oil spills in the Middle East: