Emergency Over, Most Beaches Reopened After Disastrous Oil Spill

Israelis clean tar off the Bat Yam beach. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Israel’s Environmental Protection Ministry on Wednesday declared the emergency caused by a massive oil spill on the coast a month ago to be over, as a major part of the cleanup operation has made most of the beaches safe for bathing.

“After a particularly intense month, we are moving to the next stage, and continuing to supervise the coastal authorities in further cleaning and removal of tar, to achieve a complete cleanup of the beaches,” Environmental Protection Minister Gila Gamliel said in a statement.

In what was described as one of the worst environmental disasters in the state’s history, an estimated 1,000 tons of tar washed onto Israel’s Mediterranean coastline. According to Channel 12 news, 600 tons have been cleared away to date.

Eighty-two percent of Israel’s beaches have reopened for public use. Of the total, 61% have been rated clean or with slight levels of pollution; 36% were found to have light to moderate levels of pollution; and 3%, almost all of them rocky beaches, are still significantly polluted.

Initially official statements said it would take months if not years to complete the cleanup, which seemed at odds with the quick reopening. However, the ministry did not make any comment about revising the timeline.

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