Arava Oil Spill Update

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 Arava Oil Spill Latest

/PhotoAlbum/Animal%20Protection/Cormorant.jpgA cormorant that was injured by the oil spill Photo: Menachem Zalutzki
A cormorant that was injured by the oil. Photo: Menachem Zalutzki
A cormorant that was injured by the oil spill
Photo: Menachem Zalutzki

While most of the oil from the massive spill in Israel's southern Arava region has been cleaned up, the hard-hit Evrona Nature Reserve remains closed, and crews are still working in the area to clean it up entirely. Meantime, the Ministry of Environmental Protection has begun to formulate a rehabilitation plan, in coordination with other experts in the fields of contaminated soil, ecological biodiversity, and more.

Below is a detailed timeline of activity from the start of the spill through mid-January 2015.

​Ecological Disaster: Oil Spill in the Arava
Images from the Field


Updates from the Field

Transferring contaminated soil into Nimra Landfill, after removal from Evrona Nature reserve
Monday, Jan. 12, 2015: The Evrona Nature Reserve rehabilitation team began its work today, Jan. 12, 2015, with a meeting headed by Deputy Environmental Protection Minister Ofir Akunis. Air quality tests found that there has been a 90% reduction of pollution in Evrona, one of the sites most harmed by the December 2014 oil spill in Israel's southern Arava region. Some 30 companies are now vying to be selected to decontaminate the soil that was contaminated by the oil spill. More on the rehabilitation team's work.
Tuesday, Jan. 6, 2015: The MoEP is preparing for an approaching winter storm by laying out absorption material throughout the area. This, despite the fact that floods are not expected in the area.
Meantime, Deputy Environmental Protection Minister Ofir Akunis has instructed that air quality tests be conducted in Evrona on Tuesday, to ensure that the air is safe for volunteers who help in the rehabilitation effort. Akunis has instructed that the reserve remain closed as long as high values of pollutants are still registered in air quality tests.
Thursday, Dec. 18, 2014: Experts on soil contaminated from fuel, from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, took part in a conference call with Israeli professionals, about rehabilitation of the area affected by the Arava oil spill. The call was organized at the instructions of Deputy Environmental Protection Minister Ofir Akunis.
Before the telephone meeting, the MoEP submitted a summary and review of all the actions it took in the wake of the incident. This includes pumping the oil, building barriers to prevent it from spreading further, and transferring contaminated soil to a nearby landfill.
MoEP experts will consider and evaluate the EPA recommendations in the coming days.

Monday, Dec. 15, 2014: Another reminder that the Evrona Nature Reserve is closed to visitors. Some 50 private vehicles tried to get into the reserve this past weekend. They were stopped by supervisors and police officers that spotted them and redirected them to the birding site in Be'er Ora that overlooks Evrona, where guided tours are being given. Deputy Environmental Protection Minister Ofir Akunis ordered that the reserve remain closed for now so as not to put public health at risk. It should be noted that there will be educational activities at the Be'er Ora birding site over the Chanukah holiday that will provide for visitors not only a bird's eye view of the site, but will offer them an explanation of the rehabilitation activities taking place in Evrona. Some 200 people visited the birding site over the weekend.
Sunday, December 14, 2014: Deputy Environmental Protection Minister Ofir Akunis summarized the activities taking place in Israel's southern Arava region during today's weekly cabinet meeting. The Ministry of Environmental Protection (MoEP) is overseeing the cleanup and treatment in the Arava, in the wake of this month's massive oil spill, which began with a breached oil pipeline earlier this month and resulted in 5-million liters of crude oil gushing from that pipeline.
In his review, MK Akunis reported:
  1. There are no more concerns about contamination of the Eilat Gulf. This is thanks to the pumping of pools of oil that had spilled from the pipeline, the transfer of contaminated soil from the contamination site to the Nimra landfill north of Eilat, and the dams and absorbing material that were built and laid out to prevent the oil from dispersing in the event of flooding during rains.
  2. The Evrona Nature Reserve will be closed to visitors, in order to ensure that public health is not put at risk.
  3. Next Sunday, Dec. 21st, Akunis will present a comprehensive plan for rehabilitation of the area to the cabinet for approval. The MoEP is working with the Israel Nature and Parks Authority (INPA) and environmental organizations to formulate the plan. Representatives of all the involved organizations met on Thursday, to ensure that transparency of information is maintained.
  4. The MoEP's Green Police have begun a criminal investigation to determine the circumstances that led to the spill, to understand who is responsible for it, and to review the response of the different involved agencies.
  5. Some half a billion birds are flying over Israel during this period, as they migrate to Africa for the winter. These birds have no sense of smell, and there is concern that they will try to drink the oil. The INPA has placed inspectors in the Evrona Nature Reserve during the nights in order to prevent the birds from landing near contaminated areas.
  6. The INPA is collecting seeds from acacia trees that absorbed oil in order to prevent animals from ingesting the toxid seeds.


MK Akunis: "We are in control of the situation and we have successfully dealt with the significant threat that the Gulf of Eilat would be contaminated. The concern about public health is our top priority. Therefore I have ordered that the Evrona Nature Reserve be closed, and that the public be directed to go to the nearby birding site instead. Hundreds of visitors already visited the birding site this past weekend."

During his report, Deputy Minister Akunis also presented to the ministers new aerial photos of the contaminated site in the Evrona Nature Reserve, and described the activities related to rehabilitation activities and soil removal activities that are already taking place.

MK Akunis and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanked the MoEP and INPA for their handling of the incident. Netanyahu noted that it is extremely important that the health and safety of the public is maintained and that visitors are kept from entering Evrona while it is being rehabilitated. He also noted the importance of doing whatever necessary to prevent a similar disaster in the future. 


Saturday evening, December 13, 2014: A light rain fell on the contaminated site over the weekend, but there were no floods and no further harm was caused by the rain.


Friday, December 12, 2014: While rain is expected in the Arava region today, flooding is not anticipated. Still, crews have been preparing for the rain by raising the walls of dams that were built in preparation for last week's rains, and by improving the drainage in the area, to prevent oil from spreading in the case of flooding.

The MoEP is reminding people that the Evrona Nature Reserve is closed, but that educational activities are taking place in the Evrona birding site near Be'er Ora that overlooks the reserve. From there, visitors will get a bird's eye view of the damage sustained in the disaster.


Thursday, December 11, 2014: Deputy Environmental Protection Minister Ofir Akunis has ordered crews to raise the side walls of the dams that have been built in the Arava to prevent flooding, in order to prepare for more rainfall expected this weekend. Thanks to the infrastructure that has already been built in the area, the risk that the oil will reach the Gulf of Eilat has significantly dropped.

As of today, 90% of the oil has been removed from the field. Only a few oil puddles remain in the Evrona Nature Reserve, which was the area hardest hit by the spill. That oil is expected to be pumped up soon. The MoEP is keeping both local authorities and Jordanian authorities up to date, in terms of how the flooding is expected to affect the area.

MK Akunis has also said that the birding site in Evrona should prepare for more visitors this weekend, since the Evrona Nature Reserve was closed in the wake of the oil spill.

MK Akunis will summarize the cleanup and treatment activities that are taking place at the weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday.


Wednesday, December 10, 2014: The public is being asked not to come to the area in Israel's southern Arava region, where crews are continuing the cleanup in the wake of last week's massive crude oil spill. The Evrona Nature Reserve has been closed, after air quality tests conducted over the past few days found high levels of benzene, a toxic and carcinogenic chemical. These levels could put pregnant women, young children, and the elderly at risk. It should be noted that the values are not considered dangerous for those working at the site. Tests found normal air quality values in Eilat and Be'er Ora.

During the holiday of Chanukah, which begins next Wednesday, the Israel Nature and Parks Authority will be offering educational activities for visitors to a birdwatching site in Be'er Ora that overlooks Evrona. Be'er Ora is the town located closest to the point of the breach. 

The section of the oil pipeline that burst last week, causing the spill, was confiscated by the Ministry of Environmental Protection's Green Police today. The part is considered evidence, and the Eilat-Ashkelon Pipeline Company, which owns the pipeline, has been prohibited from touching it.
Newly appointed Deputy Environmental Protection Minister Ofir Akunis said after assessing the situation on the ground that a plan for rehabilitating the region and the hard-hit Evrona Nature Reserve will be formulated and submitted for cabinet approval soon. The plan will also include methods to prevent a similar event in the future. MK Akunis instructed the medical service representative that participated in the assessment to permanently place a doctor in Be'er Ora.
MK Akunis: "It is my intention to do everything possible within my capacity, together with the MoEP professionals, to ensure that the damage of the oil will not spread further, that the damage that has been sustained will be treated quickly, and that we will learn lessons from this incident. I have given instructions that the investigation into the incident will continue, so that we can make conclusions and ensure that these types of disasters won't happen again in Israel."
The EAPC said during the assessment meeting that no fewer than 144 dunam of the Evrona Nature Reserve were covered with oil during the first days of the disaster.
Tuesday, December 9, 2014: The rain that crews in the southern Arava region have been preparing for began to fall Tuesday afternoon. Despite the rainfall, crude oil did not flow outside of the area that has already been contaminated. Crews have been working for days to build dams and lay out absorbing materials by the drainage opening at the northern point of the Gulf of Eilat, in order to prevent the oil from reaching the Red Sea.

So far, 20,000 tons of contaminated soil and most of the leaked oil has been removed from the Evrona Nature Reserve and other parts of the Arava in the wake of last Wednesday's crude oil spill. The spill began when a pipeline burst near Be'er Ora, spurring one of the worst ecological disasters in the country's history. The contaminated soil has been transferred to the Nimra landfill, north of Eilat.

All tests conducted in Be'er Ora and Eilat have found that the air quality is normal. A mobile air monitoring station will be placed in Be'er Ora in order to measure the air quality there in real time.

Flora and fauna, however, have been harmed. Experts found that 430 acacia trees were damaged by the oil. Acertaining the extent of all the damage will take months.
Monday, December 8, 2014: The Ministry of Environmental Protection (MoEP) is laying down absorption equipment in the southern Arava region, to prepare for rainfall that is expected tomorrow. The rain could cause flash floods, which could result in further dispersion of the crude oil that has been gushing through the area since an oil pipeline burst last week. Dams have been built in the Evrona Nature Reserve, which has been especially hard hit by the spill, in order to prevent the oil from reaching the Gulf of Eilat-Aqaba in the event of a flood. And an ocean containment boom has nevertheless been put into the sea, to prevent any oil runoff that does reach the water from spreading.

So far, 15,278 tons of soil that was contaminated by the oil spill have been removed by cleanup crews, and transferred to the Nimra landfill north of Eilat. That is the vast majority of the oil. The Israel Nature and Parks Authority and the Eilat Ashkelon Pipeline Company (EAPC), which owns the breached pipeline, are working together to deal with the small oil puddles that still remain. The EAPC is preparing to take infrared pictures of the Evrona Nature Reserve in order to assess the state of the acacia trees there, and the extent to which they have been harmed by the disaster.

Data that the (EAPC) has handed over to the MoEP shows that a total of 5-million liters of crude oil have leaked from the pipeline. The company's original estimation was 1-1.5 million liters, a figure that the MoEP expressed doubt about last week. The EAPC also reported that some 2-million liters of oil have been pumped up.
Sunday, December 7, 2014: As cleanup of the massive oil spill in the Arava region continues, the Ministry of Environmental Protection (MoEP) has informed the Eilat Ashkelon Pipeline Company (EAPC) that it may not resume activities of the pipe that burst, until it receives explicit permission from the ministry.

Meantime, crews have finished pumping oil from the main pools that were formed after the spill, and the MoEP is preparing for rainfall Tuesday that could cause flash floods. So far, 8,500 tons of contaminated soil have been removed and transferred to the Nimra landfill.
Saturday, Dec. 6: About 1,000 cubic meters of crude oil have been extracted from in and around the Evrona Nature Reserve, which was hard hit by the oil leak. So far, 6,000 tons of contaminated soil were removed and brought to the Nimra landfill. Meantime, the Director of the MoEP's Southern District office, Guy Samet, and the Israel Nature and Parks Authority have ordered the Eilat Ashkelon Pipeline Company to bring in more workers and additional equipment to expedite the pace of the cleanup, due to the concerns about rain and potential flooding in the region next week.
Friday, Dec. 5: The removal of soil that has been contaminated by the spill has begun. The soil is being brought to the Nimra landfill, just north of Eilat. The removal began after the landfill was prepared and waterproofed.

Rain is expected in the region on Tuesday, and there are concerns of flooding. This could cause the oil to spread further over large areas, including to the waters of the Gulf of Eilat-Aqaba.

Air quality tests conducted under the supervision of the MoEP, with the help of the Naot Hovav Industrial Council, have found that the air quality in Eilat and Be'er Ora is normal, and there is no concern for the health of residents. However high levels of benzene were detected on Highway 90, along a cycling route that had been scheduled to be part of the triathlon.


Thursday, Dec. 4: Aerial views show that the oil stain ia approximately 6 kilometers long, from Be'er Ora through the Evrona Nature Reserve. An MoEP crew is working to reinforce the area, and efforts are focused on pumping the crude oil deposits and reducing the immediate environmental damage. Crude oil can contaminate land, release hazardous gas, and harm flora and fauna, and can be a health concern.

First Report: EAPC Pipeline Burst

Deer footprints in the leaked oil, Evrona Nature Reserve

Wednesday, Dec. 3: A report was received about a crude oil spill in Israel's southern Arava region. The spill was the result of a breach in the Eilat-Ashkelon pipeline, owned by the Eilat Ashkelon Pipeline Company (EAPC). The breach occurred south of Be'er Ora. The MoEP has sent workers to begin the cleanup and the ministry's Green Police has established a team that will work with outside sources to investigate the causes of the leak, actions that could have been taken to prevent the environmental disaster, and to review how it is being treated.

​Millions of liters of crude oil have already spilled from the burst pipe, and the oil has traveled several kilometers. It has reached the Evrona Nature Reserve, one of the most important reserves in the Arava.  It is home to the northernmost Egyptian Doum palm trees in the world and to an extensive deer population. An initial inspection found that the trees are not in danger at this point, but the reserve has already been severely damaged.

Crews are working to prevent the spill from spreading further, and from reaching Jordan.

The MoEP has recommended that the Eilat municipality cancel a triathlon that was scheduled for the weekend in the areas that have been affected by the spill.

02/04/2015 11:50
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