Greek tanker off suspect list as Israel still seeks culprit in massive oil spill

Search for perpetrator continues after the Greek ship Minerva Helen was cleared of suspicion that it caused the disastrous oil spill on Israel’s beaches.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

Investigators from Israel’s Ministry of Environmental Protection ruled out the involvement of the Greek tanker ship Minerva Helen, which had been suspected of causing a massive oil spill that polluted Israel’s entire Mediterranean coastline, Kan News reported Saturday.

Over the weekend, a team of investigators from the ministry completed an audit of the tanker in an attempt to locate the cause of the spill that sent tens of thousands of liters of sticky tar across Israel’s coastline, killing wildlife and preventing people from going to the beach until the heavily polluting oil is cleaned up.

The ministry confirmed that dozens of ships were in the area where the suspected contamination occurred, and so far about 10 of those ships have been ruled out as the source of the spill.

“We have a moral obligation to the public, animals and nature that have been harmed as a result of the pollution,” said Minister of Environmental Protection Gila Gamliel. “This pollution has an address – we will not pass on the issue of environmental crime, and we will take all measures to locate the criminal [responsible].”

A preliminary report by researchers from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem indicates that the material that reached the shores of the country is most likely crude oil, which increases the chances of finding the source of the leak, Kan reported.

On Friday, tests conducted by the Israel Oceanographic and Limnological Research in Haifa showed signs of naphthalene and phenanthrene – both toxic materials – up to 17 kilometers from the shores of Israel at a depth of up to 200 meters.

Both substances are derivatives of oil that can be toxic to the marine ecological environment as well as to humans. According to the institute’s staff, at this stage the concentration of the materials is still unclear and the matter is being studied further.

Last week, the health and environment ministries put a ban on selling fish caught in the Mediterranean until it can be determined if the fish have ingested any of the oil and are now toxic.

On Tuesday, the cabinet announced a plan to allocate NIS 45 million ($14 million) to clean up the pollution on the beaches, remove the waste to disposal sites and restore the situation to what it had been before the devastating oil spill.

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