From: Mark Lavie, Associated Press
Published March 2, 2005 12:00 AM

Army Publication: Israeli Military Causes Severe Environmental Damage

JERUSALEM — Bombs and shells from a seabed disposal site wash up on the Israeli shore, and precious fresh water is fouled with diesel fuel -- just two examples of severe environmental damage by Israel's military, according to one of the army's own publications.


A picture of a garbage dump in a shallow valley outside the fence of an army base -- located in a nature reserve -- illustrates the article in the magazine section of "Bamahane," the soldiers' weekly.


But there are far worse offenses.


Army bases are the main polluter of Israel's main supply of fresh water, the Sea of Galilee, the report said. "Discarded fuel and oil flow in riverbeds, seep into the ground and show up in wells and the sea itself," Pinhas Green, chairman of the Sea of Galilee administration, told the magazine. "One liter (quart) of diesel fuel can pollute a million liters (250,000 gallons) of ground water."


Recent measurements have shown some improvement, Green told the army magazine.


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Several years ago, residents of the central Israeli city of Rosh Pina complained that their drinking water was fouled with gasoline. Army bases nearby were dumping fuel into the ground, where it seeped into the water table and wells. The magazine said that problem has been cleaned up in the meantime, without giving dates or details.


However, there are still military gas stations lacking the required infrastructure to prevent spilled fuel from seeping into the ground, the magazine wrote. The huge Hatzor air force base in Israel's north is a prime offender, with complaints dating back to 1983.


Investigations at the Hatzor base showed flawed procedures for handling fuel, causing what the magazine called "one of the worst cases of pollution ever recorded in the Western world." So far almost nothing has been done to repair the damage, the report said.


Even tanks can cause long-term damage during routine exercises. Deep tracks left by the heavy vehicles can take decades to wear away, and they change water flow patterns in the meantime, the magazine reported.


The offshore ammunition dump has become a bureaucratic football, the magazine reports. The Defense Ministry disclaims responsibility but says it is coordinating with the Environment Ministry to deal with it. The magazine does not say how the ammunition got to the seabed but reports that from time to time, bombs, shells and other explosives wash up on the Israeli beach.


More conventional environmental problems also abound. Many bases feature trash dumps just outside their perimeter fences. The magazine reports on Division 401 headquarters, located in a nature reserve in the Judean Desert near the Dead Sea, where trash piles up in a dry riverbed.


Army environment supervisor Eli Drori told the magazine, "I've found everything there -- hand grenades, machine gun ammunition, tank shells, explosives -- all in the pile of trash."


For several years, the Israeli military has been promoting environmental friendliness, but cleaning up the messes of the past takes time. "It's a matter of budget," said Lt. Col. Moshe Shabbat, the chief environmental officer in the military's logistics branch.


The military has absorbed budget cuts in recent years, along with the rest of the Israeli government, reflecting an economic slowdown.


Even so, the magazine claims the army is doing much better than it used to. Just a few years ago, the military considered environmentalists as enemies, but now there are environmental supervisors in many units, and they have input about the locations of training exercises as well as spotting damage to the surroundings.


Source: Associated Press


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