From: Joshua Basofin, Green Prophet
Published February 7, 2012 08:19 AM

Tel Aviv Water Wells Polluted from Contamination

A recent study discovered that many Tel Aviv wells are polluted beyond suitability as drinking water sources. Data collected by the Health Ministry and Water Authority showed that 96 of a total 166 wells in the Tel Aviv area were closed due to contamination. Nearly two-thirds of the wells have been shuttered since 1980, when all 166 were in full operation. The pollution has been caused by two types of activities. First, contaminants from armament manufacturing, agricultural runoff and sewage systems seep into the groundwater table.


Second, seawater intrusion has caused salinity levels to rise. Coastal aquifers have built-in brackish water barriers that create a line between seawater and freshwater. When wells are overpumped, that barrier weakens and seawater flows into the aquifer. The subsequent spike in salinity is pervasive and difficult to remediate.

The Israel Military Industries site in Ramat Hasharon is the source of perchlorate leakage. Perchlorate is a rocket propellant used in several types of military equipment. It affects human health by interfering with thyroid function. It may also be a carcinogen, though studies have been inconclusive.

When perchlorate was discovered in Ramat HaSharon, residents immediately began receiving water from the National Water Company. Now the town has filed suit against the government for additional costs incurred due to the contamination.

The perchlorate must be remediated. That includes pumping the water out and purifying it. The plan will take 20 years and cost Israeli taxpayers half a billion shekels. But the cleanup is essential to ensure wells are fully restored and the perchlorate does not continue to spread.

Runoff from agricultural areas has been pervasive in the Tel Aviv area. Chemical pesticides and fertilizers used on most large-scale farms have leached into groundwater. This causes unacceptable levels of nitrates, which are a danger for both human health and the environment. 32 of the abandoned wells showed nitrate levels exceeding water quality standards. Additionally, several wells contain toxic metals.

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