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Dangerous, Untreated Wastewater in the West Bank

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Dangerous Untreated West Bank Wastewater - by Stephen Lendman

B'Tselem is the Jerusalem-based independent Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories (OPT) with a well-deserved reputation for accuracy and integrity. It was founded in 1989 to "document and educate the Israeli public, policymakers (and concerned people everywhere) about human rights violations in the OPT, combat the phenomenon of denial prevalent among the Israeli public (and elsewhere, especially among Jews), and create a human rights culture in Israel" to convince government officials to respect human rights and comply with international law.

It conducts wide-ranging, carefully researched, and thoroughly cross-checked reports, most recently its June one titled, "Foul Play: Neglect of wastewater treatment in the West Bank." This article discusses its findings as further evidence of how Israel violates international humanitarian law as an occupying power. Because no global authority holds it accountable, over 2.8 million West Bank Palestinians suffer along with another 1.5 million under siege in Gaza for over two years and counting.


Human activity produces wastewater for which treatment is essential "to prevent and reduce sanitation and environmental hazards" that otherwise would result - from dangerous viruses, bacteria, parasites, heavy metals, and other toxic substances that pollute water, farm crops, flora, and fauna, and reduce land fertility.

Israeli West Bank and Jerusalem settlements produce about 91 million cubic meters of wastewater annually, more than double the amount from Palestinian communities. Yet most of it goes untreated. As an occupying power, international humanitarian law requires it be done, yet Israel violates its obligations across the board making Palestinians suffer grievously as a result.

Wastewater from Settlements and Jerusalem

Israel's Civil Administration environmental protection staff officer, Benny Elbaz, told B'Tselem that (other than outpost wastewater) all of it from settlements gets "adequate" treatment, and raw effluent isn't allowed to flow freely.

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However, an August 2008 study refutes his assertion. Jointly conducted by the Nature and Parks Authority Environment Unit, the Ministry of Environmental Protection's Water and Streams Department, and the Civil Administration, it showed that in 2007, only 81 of 121 West Bank settlements were connected to wastewater treatment facilities. Also, over half of treatment plants (38 of 74) are small facilities able to service only a few hundred families, way short of what's needed.

In addition, to operate properly, plants need "round-the-clock maintenance," but because the per-capita cost is high, "maintenance of most of the facilities is defective." They experience frequent problems, sometimes shut down entirely, and can't handle the volume channeled to them. As a result, "raw wastewater from settlements floods West Bank valleys," Israel's disclaimer notwithstanding.

In large settlements, built in the 1970s and 1980s, no wastewater is treated or facilities in place "have been neglected for decades." Among them are:

-- Kirat Arba, founded in 1972; its wastewater flows into the Hebron stream that runs into Israel;

-- Ofra, founded in 1975; its sewage flows into the Mountain Aquifer and pollutes groundwater; in 2008, Israel began constructing a settlement treatment plant, but it's being built on Palestinian land without Civil Administration approval;

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-- Kfar Adumim, founded in 1979; instead of being treated, its wastewater is disposed of in cesspits cut into the ground for effluent disposal; from there, it pollutes land and groundwater; and

-- Bat Ayin, founded in 1989; it has a partial collection system, and residents dispose of their wastewater in cesspits.

Other settlements, like those below, experience frequent breakdowns that shut facilities for extended periods:

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I was born in 1934, am a retired, progressive small businessman concerned about all the major national and world issues, committed to speak out and write about them.

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