The assessment of the damage caused by Friday’s acid leak in southern Israel is growing increasingly dire. Initially, environmental experts believed that the Ashalim stream and the surrounding nature reserve would have to be closed for a few weeks, after acid from a fertilizer plant contaminated the area.
But by Sunday officials of the Nature and Parks Authority had revised their assessment and now say that hiking trails in the area will have to be closed for at least a year.
Large quantities of acid leaked into the Ashalim stream after a pool collapsed at the Rotem Amfert fertilizer plant in the southern Judean Desert. The Environmental Protection Ministry said it would be necessary to gradually pump out the effluent, which may threaten animal and plant life in the area.
Tens of thousands of cubic meters of the effluent leaked into the stream. On Saturday, the ministry said that, in addition to the foul odor caused by the spill, the leak might also affect freshwater reservoirs in the region used by wildlife including ibexes and gazelles.
Upon discovering the leak, the staff at the plant shut down the facility generating the effluent and tried to block its flow, but large quantities had already run into the stream. Effluent also later flowed onto Route 90, the Jerusalem-Eilat highway that runs near the Dead Sea shore. The road was closed for several hours over concerns that motorists would come into contact with the acid.
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