Massive oil spill hits southern Israel in largest environmental crisis to date

Millions of liters of crude oil spill occurs in accident during maintenance work, nature reserve affected; Clean up to take months to year +

Oil spill in southern Israel (Roi Telby)

Oil spill in southern Israel (Roi Telby)

A massive oil spill occurred in Israel’s Negev Desert not far from Eilat close to the border with Jordan Thursday in what is being described as “one of the worst environmental accidents in Israel’s history”.

Millions of liters of crude oil spilled from the Trans-Israel pipeline in an accident during maintenance work on Wednesday night. The spill caused evacuation of some 80 Jordanians near Aqaba due to breathing problems, with at least 4 people evacuated to a nearby hospital.

The pipeline was built for oil transfers from Iran to Europe in 1957 and has been used to transfer oil between Israel’s southern city of Ashkelon to Eilat through the Eilat Askelon Pipeline Company.

The spill affected Israel’s Evrona Nature Reserve with close to 1,000 acres affected by the spill. The nature reserve holds rare Middle Eastern trees and many birds, reptiles and rodents.

CEO of the Environmental Service Company Dr. Gilad Gloub explained the crisis and management methods of the spoil, stating, “The oil that was spilled created three sources of pollution: oil that must be pumped, oil polluting the soil that must be burned, and polluted soil that that needs immediate biological treatment. This is a large amount of oil, and therefore the several actions must be taken to reduce the speed of the damage and restore the contaminated land in the near future.”

According to Israel’s Environment Ministry Guy Samet, “Rehabilitation will take month, if not years”. Doron Nissim of Israel’s Nature and Parks Authority stated that areas contaminated will likely be removed and suction equipment will be used to drain oil from affected regions.

The Environmental Protection Ministry stated that “We may have to plough some of the land and the landscape will probably be damaged as several tractors will have to enter a delicate nature preserve.”