New oil spill off Israel’s coast – another ecological disaster?

As of now, the spill is being deemed a possible Tier-3 event, meaning that local resources will not be enough to contain it.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

The Environmental Protection Ministry announced Tuesday night the investigation of what could be serious oil spill off Israel’s coastline, exactly a year after another spill caused one of the country’s worst ecological disasters.

Following a warning by a European satellite-based monitoring service, the ministry sent out a reconnaissance plane to find the dark stain at sea. While it found nothing, later military flights identified several oil patches stretching from Rishon Lezion to Netanya, a roughly 40-kilometer stretch of coast.

The IDF has dispatched vessels and naval divers to the area to collect more information. All data will be sent to a situation room in Haifa that Environmental Protection Minister Tamar Zandberg opened to coordinate Israel’s response.

The ministry is already preparing to send out vessels that can pump oil out of the sea, although this is only a limited solution. The spill was estimated at being only some 20 kilometers (12) miles away, with the ocean currents moving it quickly towards shore.

The ministry has ordered all companies and factories along the shoreline to initiate their pre-prepared emergency plans for an oil pollution incident. These include desalination facilities

As of now, the spill is being deemed a possible Tier-3 event. A Tier-3 spill means that local resources are not enough to contain it.

There is no information yet as to the source of the spillage, which occurred exactly a year after a massive oil spill that cost the state tens of millions of dollars to clean up. The culprit then was the Emerald, a Panamanian-flagged vessel that Israel said belonged to a shell company owned by a Syrian businessman.

The tanker was reportedly sailing from Iran to Syria when the leak occurred on the night of February 1, according to then-environmental protection minister Gila Gamliel. She accused Iran of “environmental terrorism,” saying that the spill had been deliberate, although she offered no proof for her claim.

Israel only found out about that spill two and half weeks later, when huge amounts of tar washed ashore after a winter storm. One-thousand tons of petroleum and tar eventually piled up on Israel’s beaches in the weeks that followed, all of which had to be removed and treated, and the fauna were rehabilitated. After hard work by thousands of volunteers, at least some beaches were ready for use a month later.

Last year’s spill was designated a Tier-2 event.