Fluoride Action Network

Haifa Chemicals Sludge and Kishon River Mud Contaminated

Source: Greenpeace | June 8th, 1998
Location: Israel
Industry type: Phosphate Industry

Malta, 8 June 1998 – Sludge regularly dumped by the Israeli fertilizer producer Haifa Chemicals in the Mediterranean Sea is contaminated by a cocktail of toxic heavy metals and organic pollutants. This is the result of scientific test results carried out by the Greenpeace International Laboratory at Exeter University in England.

A similar toxic cocktail in higher concentrations was also found in dredged mud from the Kishon River where many industries including the US-owned Haifa Chemicals dump their outflows. The river ends in Haifa Bay.

Three samples from the Kishon River mud and two from the tank of the ship “Aribel” in Haifa Port were taken by Greenpeace activists last April 13, before the ship dumped its toxic content in the Mediterranean Sea.

“Haifa Chemicals sludge samples contained zinc, cadmium and mercury above acceptable. Dumping of such material in the sea could result in significant local elevation of concentrations of these metals, with the potential for impacts on marine ecosystems,” said Irina Labunska and David Santillo from the Greenpeace International Laboratory.

“Three sediments samples collected from the sedimentation ponds of the Kishon River contained elevated levels of copper, zinc, chromium, cadmium and mercury. In some cases, these levels were far in excess of background concentrations expected for river sediments. In addition, all samples contained toxic chemicals like polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), alkylated benzenes and haloganated alkanes,” they noted.

“These samples reflect the dangerous state of the water in the Kishon river where youth marine clubs practice. The authorities claim that it is safe if someone falls in the water. But let’s hope that Israel does not experience another deadly accident like the one when 4 Australian athletes died after falling into the polluted Yarkon River near Tel Aviv in July last year,” the scientists said. (1)

Cadmium, mercury, crude oil and hydrocarbons which may be derived from petroleum, and any mixture containing these, are included in the Barcelona Convention “Protocol for the Prevention of Pollution of the Mediterranean Sea by Dumping from Ships and Aircraft” (UNEP 1992, 1995). According to this protocol, the dumping of such wastes in the Mediterranean is prohibited. But Israel and most other countries in the basin did not ratify this protocol.

The dredged mud from the Kishon River cannot be applied to soils or dumped in the sea as was raised as an option by officials. The main reason is that some of the found contaminants are toxic, persistent and bioaccumulative and may, therefore, have the potential for long-term impacts on terrestrial systems, or for run-off to freshwater and marine systems. (2)

Greenpeace calls on the new chairman of Haifa Chemicals, Mr. Avi Philosof and the new executive director, Mrs. Ester Eldan, to stop the sea dumping. The solution is to implement new environmental guidelines for the company in line with promises made by the Ministry of Environment.” (3)

For further information please in Malta Dr. Mario Damato, Executive Director of Greenpeace Mediterranean, on ++356-667167; or the Greenpeace Mediterranean in Beirut on 01-785665. Emails: gpmedisr@diala.greenpeace.org; gpmedite@diala.greenpeace.org

Greenpeace on the Internet: www.greenpeace.org

Attention Editors: The full Greenpeace sample test results can be obtained from us.


1. Dozens of athletes fell 25 feet into the polluted Yarkon River on 14 July 1997 when a footbridge collapsed under the Australian team at the opening of the quadrennial Maccabiah Jewish athletic games. At least 10 athletes who returned to Australia after the games were readmitted to hospitals there because they were suffering from complications.

2. The Danish Hydraulic Institute submitted a report in 1996 showing that the Kishon mud contains a variety of heavy metals and needs to be treated accordingly. The Technion Institute in Haifa also found high concentrations of heavy metals in the Kishon mud in 1992/3 and the Israeli Institute of Limnology in 1991 and 1997.

3. On December 30th 1997, a governmental committee gave the US-owned firm a permit to dump additional 60,000 tons of toxic sludge in 1998. Mr. Eitan promised last July that the sea dumping would stop by the end of 1997. His public statement came after activists from the Greenpeace ship “Sirius” towed away from Haifa port one of three barges used by Haifa Chemicals to regularly dump toxic sludge in the sea. This is the second time the Israeli government has broken its promise to stop the dumping of toxic waste by this factory. On 16 August 1997, one of the three barges owned by Haifa Chemicals sank with more then 300 tons of toxic sludge for unknown reasons 700 meters off Haifa Port.