Several years of active involvement by Friends of the Earth Middle East in combating a sewage spill at the Israeli settlement of Beitar Elit finally seem to pay off. The spill, which is caused by failure in the local sewage pumping station, has major consequences for the environment and in particular the downhill fields of Wadi Fuqin.
Over the past four years numerous incidents of malfunctions in the pumping station of Beitar Elit were not attended in a timely fashion, leading to frequent overflowing of raw sewage down the slope, and contaminating three agricultural lots rendering their land unusable. In 2006 FoEME started tracking the frequency of the sewage overflows and took samples of the land to show the effects. Despite initial success to arrange improved maintenance at the pumping station and reduce the frequency of the sewage discharge, the problem was not solved. Friends of the Earth Middle East approached the municipality of Beitar Elit requesting an upgrade of the station maintenance as well as improvement of the poor alert service. However, lack of action by the municipality and ineffective outcomes of organized meetings forced FoEME to change tack.
FoEME invited high officials from the Israeli Ministry of Environmental Protection on a tour through the area to observe several environmental hazards originating from Beitar Elit. The officials were requested to force a solution on the Beitar Elit municipality in order to stop the ongoing demise. In addition, FoEME made sure the issue attracted a lot of media attention. Consequently, Beitar Elit – faced with many questions from journalists and followed up by the ministry – purchased a large sewage tank to catch waste water, however refused to connect it to the system saying they lacked the money to do so. After a year of consistent pressure by FoEME and enforcement of law by the Ministry of Environmental Protection, this week the municipality claimed to have finally connected the tank, and in addition to have put in place an improved alert system for future failures of the pumping station. FoEME’s field staff at Wadi Fuqin directly informed the affected farmers of the good news and stressed the importance of immediate reporting to the organization or the ministry in case of further spill.
However happy with the great progress that has been made, Friends of the Earth will continue to keep a close watch on the Beitar Elit sewage spill.