MK Rabbi Asher in Debate on Excess Morbidity in Haifa Bay: Solution Is Relocation of Polluting Plants

View of the oil refineries of Haifa and the industrial area. (Chen Leopold/Flash90)

​The Internal Affairs and Environment Committee, chaired by MK Rabbi Yaakov Asher (United Torah Judaism), convened on Monday for a debate on findings of a study attesting to the presence of carcinogenic substances in the blood of Haifa Bay residents. Committee Chair MK Asher said that Haifa Bay was one of the urgent issues on the Government’s agenda, and that the intention was ultimately to remove the polluting plants and develop the area.

MK Asher said: “The plan already exists, and many Government resolutions on the matter have already been passed. This is a very complex plan in terms of the regulation, budgets and ministries involved. The committee will begin a series of meetings in which the overall plan will be presented, divided by government ministries. The committee’s strength lies in [the ability] to push, comment and highlight [various points], and to ensure that the resolutions are implemented.” The committee chair added, “Haifa Bay is a time bomb that is ticking quietly. This is a disaster that has been ongoing for years, and its results are very serious. Without being a scientist, one can understand that this area is problematic.”

Committee Chair MK Asher said that monitoring the environmental hazards was not the solution. The solution is relocation of the polluting plants and transition to non-polluting technologies, he said, adding that “that is where we aim to reach, and the coalition agreement we signed also has a clause dealing with it.” MK Asher said that he would ask the finance minister and the minister of environmental protection to strengthen the supervision system so that enforcement in Haifa Bay would be more effective.

Presented in the debate were the results of studies conducted in cooperation with the Ministry of Environmental Protection, which attested to the presence of metals, namely chromium and lead, in the blood of donors who are Haifa Bay residents. However, Dr. Orna Metzner of the Ministry of Environmental Protection said that the levels were very similar to findings from Europe, and that in the opinion of the researchers the concentrations were not irregular.

Ministry of Health official Dr. Isabella Karakis said that the Ministry of Health had issued several reports with evidence of excess morbidity in Haifa Bay.

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