Joint Israeli-Palestinian Project to Check Water Supply

YERUSHALAYIM -

A joint Israeli-Palestinian project has been launched to test the regional water supply for potentially harmful endocrine-disrupting chemicals, The Jerusalem Post reported.

The overall effect on the environment of the large quantities of medicines and chemicals consumed by the human and animal population once they have passed through the body and into the country’s water system are unknown, Prof. Alon Tal of Ben-Gurion University’s Jacob Blaustein Institute for Desert Research at Sde Boker, explained.

“No one in Israel, or the Palestinian Authority, is currently looking for the presence of these chemicals or their effects “in a systematic way,” he said.

“Now we are on the hunt for the smoking gun,” Tal told The Jerusalem Post. “It is my hypothesis that Israel’s enthusiasm for water reuse has grave implications.”

To test his hypothesis, Tal has received a three-year, $560,000- grant from the USAID’s Middle East Regional Cooperation (MERC) Program. Students from Sde Boker will conduct most of the laboratory testing in Health Ministry labs.

On the Palestinian side is water engineer Nader al-Khateeb, who also serves as Palestinian director of Friends of the Earth Middle East; Dr. Alfred Abed Rabbo, an assistant professor at Bethlehem University’s Water and Soil Research Unit; Dr. Shai Armon; and a group of Palestinian students.

The presence of certain types of cancer increases among the population’s males is cited by as a cause for concern. He believes that elevated hormone levels due to the consumption of hormone-laden beef does not provide a satisfactory solution, particularly since Israelis in general do not eat so much beef.

The Sde Boker group has already begun sampling the Yarkon River, and will also be testing the sewage treatment originating from Yerucham Lake. In the Palestinian Authority, in addition to analyzing stream water, they will be testing the waters at the authority’s only secondary sewage treatment plant — in Al-Bira — and those at the two deteriorating sewage treatment plants in Shechem and Tulkarem.

“I think this is going to take to the next level what we know about streams,” Tal said.

Initial results will begin to be available within a few months. Each sample costs about $1,000 to perform and assess, and the group has already conducted 56 samples.

The researchers are checking the water content at an extremely minute level, in trace amounts of parts per billion, Tal said.

“What we don’t know are the synergistic effects — when you have a suite of, say, 20 chemicals that work in concert,” he said.