Charges Likely in Major Negev Wastewater Spill

YERUSHALAYIM -
A view of the Negev. (Maxim Dinshtein/Flashh90)

Officials are likely to criminally prosecute the management of Rotem Fertilizers, after as much as 100,000 liters of wastewater from processed chemicals flowed from the factory, located in the southern Negev, in the direction of Nachal Ashalim. Road 90, the main north-south highway in the eastern Negev, was closed Friday afternoon, and a nature reserve in the area was shut down and evacuated.

The chemical flow began after the walls of one of the reservoirs where the wastewater was stored broke. The reservoir held tens of thousands of liters of wastewater byproducts from the manufacture of fertilizer. Environmental officials said that large efforts were being made to prevent further spread of the wastewater, particularly to ensure that they did not reach the Dead Sea. In some parts of Nachal Ashalim, the flow reached a depth of as high as 4 meters, officials said.

The Environment Ministry said over the weekend that it had issued an order to close the reservoirs and to stop using them for the time being, while the rest of the reservoirs were inspected.

Criminal charges could be filed against the firm, officials said. Baruch Weber, head of the Ministry’s Southern District, told Channel Ten that “an event like this cannot pass without a public hearing. We are set to issue orders for a closure of the plant, and other legal steps may be taken as well,” he added.