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article imagePhosphate factory reservoir full of toxic wastewater collapses

By Karen Graham     Jul 5, 2017 in Environment
A tsunami of toxic and highly acidic wastewater was sent gushing across a stretch of the Judean desert over the weekend after a section of a phosphate plant's wastewater reservoir collapsed.
A toxic flood of wastewater surged through a dry river bed in southern Israel over the weekend left in its path a wake of ecological destruction more than 20 kilometers (12 miles) long, according to Haaretz.
The ecological disaster began last Friday when a 60 meter (197 feet) high wall of a reservoir at Rotem Amfert's phosphate plant partially collapsed, releasing 100,000 cubic meters (26.4 million gallons) of highly acidic wastewater into the Ashalim riverbed. That was enough wastewater to fill 40 Olympic-sized swimming pools, reports Reuters.
Days later, the desert is still stained a dark brown where the toxic flow of waste touched the Earth. The nauseating stench from the toxic spill permeates the air. Parts of the Ashalim riverbed are made up of narrow canyons, making the region a popular hiking site. Thankfully, no one was around when the wall of toxic water came through.
The torrent of wastewater snaked through those canyons, speeding along to finally settle in pools several kilometers from the Dead Sea, the lowest point on Earth. But in the deadly flood's wake, nothing living is left.
Israel’s Ministry of Environment has opened a criminal investigation into the plant's owner, Rotem Amfert, and its parent company Israel Chemicals (ICL). Gilad Gabbai, the director of the Israel Nature and Parks Authority's Southern Region, told the Jerusalem Post hey were working with all parties in order to minimize damage to plants, animals, and travelers in the region.
“All the plants and animals in the valley during the tsunami of acid were probably highly damaged, probably dead," said Oded Netzer, an ecologist for the ministry. "In the long term, there will be soil damage and large functional ecological problems."
A company spokesman for the plant in question said that plant workers began work to stop the leak as soon as it was detected, the waste water's flow was stopped.
While the cleanup is ongoing and will probably take a year, the ecological damage will be felt for years to come.
More about phosphate plant, reservoir collapse, Wastewater, Israel, Tsunami
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