Greenpeace stops Israeli boat from dumping toxics
Greenpeace activists on board the ship MV Greenpeace on the morning of May 7 prevented the Israeli vessel Aribel from dumping toxic sludge into the Mediterranean, two kilometres off the Israeli city of Haifa. They were supported by two Israeli fishing boats.
Six Greenpeace swimmers jumped into the water and formed a human barrier to prevent the Aribel from sailing to international waters to dump waste containing a cocktail of arsenic and heavy metals like cadmium, copper and zinc.
Israeli coast guards and police demanded that the action end, but Greenpeace said it would stop only when the Aribel returns the toxic sludge to sender, factories along the Kishon River near Haifa.
The main polluter there is Haifa Chemicals, a factory allowed to dump about 45,000 tonnes of toxic sludge into international waters of the Mediterranean Sea every year. It also discharges toxics directly into the Kishon River.
Israeli environment minister Yossi Sarid told Greenpeace in Haifa on May 5 that at the forthcoming Barcelona Convention meeting in June, Israel would commit itself to the strongest possible measures to protect the marine environment.
Sarid also stated that no decision had yet been taken on how to stop pollution in the Kishon River.
Haifa Chemicals plans to build pipelines which would relieve the Kishon River, but would discharge toxics directly into the Mediterranean Sea. The company claims the marine environment will not be affected further than 200 metres from the pipe.
Sediment samples taken from the Kishon River last year by Greenpeace show alarming levels of cadmium, a carcinogen. They also show signs of HCBD, a highly toxic and bio-accumulative chemical, which the Israel government is committed, according to the Barcelona Convention, to eliminate from the marine environment.
Greenpeace points out that pollution from Haifa Chemicals and other plants has already killed all life in the Kishon. If toxic waste is discharged into Haifa Bay, it could suffer the same fate.