A recent report called the Israeli storage facility in Haifa a "sitting duck," warning that, if struck by the nation's enemies, its toxic chemical would kill thousands. That same report also warned that the facility was in danger of disintegration. Almost one year after the heavily armed terror group, Hezbollah, only miles away, called the location its "nuclear bomb" against the Jewish state, it has been shut down by an Israeli court and must be emptied one week from tomorrow.
The ammonia tank in the heart of the Haifa Bay industrial zone must be emptied within ten days, the Haifa Municipal Court ruled Sunday, less than a week after temporarily shutting down the facility over public safety concerns.
Haifa Chemicals' ammonia processing and storage facility was founded in 1989. It stores all the ammonia imported by Israel, and can hold up to 12,000 tons of chemicals. A recent report expressed grave concerns over the dwindling lifespan of the tank, saying the internal integrity of the 31-year-old container -- designed to be in use for no more than 40 years -- has not been inspected even once since it was installed.
The court also ordered the company to provide alternatives to ensure Israel's emergency ammonia reserves are unaffected by the move.
"Haifa Chemicals will honor the court order," the company said in a statement.
The ammonia tank has been at the center of a lengthy legal dispute. The Haifa Municipality has been lobbying for years to remove the tank from the bay, saying the site poses both a health hazard and a security threat, but previous government plans to relocate the facility to southern Israel have failed to materialize.
Haifa Mayor Yona Yahave welcomed the court's decision, saying it was "another achievement in our long struggle. We will not stop until the ammonia tank is removed from Haifa Bay."
The Haifa District Municipal Association for Environmental Protection lauded the court's decision as "a major step toward reducing the risk in Haifa Bay."
Mor Gilboa, head of the Green Course environmental group, welcomed the court's decision "to empty the ammonia tank -- a ticking time bomb in the Haifa Bay."
The Zalul environmental group called the ruling "a major achievement. ...We urge Haifa Chemicals not to appeal the ruling. It's time they understand the ammonia tank has come to the end of the road and they would be better off investing resources in alternatives to ammonia production."
The group called on the Environmental Protection Ministry to "seize this opportunity and refrain from renewing the tank's operating license."
This is a lightly edited version of the original article published by Israel Hayom at http://www.israelhayom.com/site/newsletter_article.php?id=40301