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Phosphate mining company ICL Rotem tops latest list of worst environmental offenders

A phosphate mining plant and two oil refineries topped the list of worst environmental offenders in the Environmental Protection Ministry’s latest index of wrongdoers.

ICL Rotem (formerly Rotem Amfert Negev Ltd), which mines phosphate rock from phosphate deposits in the Negev in southern Israel, was designated as the company with the highest negative environmental impact in the 11th annual ranking, covering 2021.

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It secured the top place, thanks to repeated violations of the law and regulations each year, from 2019 through 2021.

It came in second place for worst performance in 2020 and 2019.

In 2021, the company, owned by the ICL group, was issued with an administrative order for violations connected to wastewater discharge, infrastructure, and excessive emissions into the air.

Not included in the points it was awarded this time around was the 2017 collapse of a wall of a holding pool for phosphate — the waste product from making fertilizer — which sent some 100,000 cubic meters of acidic water and other pollutants into the Ashalim Stream in the south of the country, killing wildlife and causing long term damage.

Covering 45 publicly traded and government companies and 123 factories, the rankings are based on pollutant emissions into the air, water, and soil, which the companies themselves enter into an online Environmental Emissions Register all year round. This data is combined with information on violations of the law and regulations discovered during ministry enforcement visits, treatment of waste and hazardous substances, and physical proximity to residential areas and water bodies.

Paradoxically, Rotem’s sister company, Rotem Zin, leads the list of companies that have improved since 2020 in a category that rewards factories for activities to improve environmental performance that are not required by law, having environmental management systems in place, and reporting on environmental aspects voluntarily.

In the latest environmental gallery of rogues, Rotem is followed by oil refineries in Haifa, northern Israel, and Ashdod, on the southern coast — both regular offenders — with Carmel Olefins (which manufactures polypropylene and polyethylene for the plastics industry) in fourth place. The Alcon Recycling Center (which treats industrial wastewater) comes fifth, with the sixth position going to the Leviathan natural gas distribution network, owned by a subsidiary of the Delek Group. That follows leaks of pollutants into the sea and excessive use of the Leviathan processing platform’s flare to burn off excess gas.

The Dan Region Wastewater Treatment Plant (Shafdan) comes seventh for sludge pollution and after it Gadiv — like Carmel Olefins, a subsidiary of the Haifa petrochemical conglomerate, Bazan. In ninth and tenth position, respectively, are the Orot Rabin power station in central Hadera, and the Rahat wastewater treatment plant in the Negev, in the south.

All factories in the top 10 violated the law in some way, Environmental Protection Ministry officials told a press briefing.

Five wastewater treatment plants are among the top 20 offenders.

Tabib, which provides solutions for all types of waste, came top of the companies whose performance has worsened since 2020, followed by the Orot Rabin power station.

Environmental Protection Minister Idit Silman told the briefing that the index was aimed at informing the public, and the financial sector, about a company’s level of environmental risk. But, she lamented, it was limited to publicly traded and government concerns and therefore only of partial worth.

Yuval Laster, head of the ministry’s policy and strategy unit, agreed that fines imposed for environmental violations were too low and said this was a problem across the government. He explained that there were multiple legal obstacles to increasing them.


Source: The Time of Israel

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