Experts warn that the severe attack of October 7 and the firing of rockets at Israel filled the surrounding area and other areas with toxic infections, exposure to which could significantly harm health. Therefore, the planned rehabilitation in Otef will require treatment of these infections, and those who are currently in place must wear a mask and gloves to protect their health
even after braking The murderous attack On the other hand, the soil there is still toxic. The remains of the munitions and fuels that were burned and the extensive damage caused so far and still caused by the rockets left many pollutants in the ground, air and water. Without proper treatment, they may significantly harm the health of the local residents on the day when they can finally return to their homes. Experts call on those who are currently walking around the surrounding areas to take precautions - and make it clear that in order to allow living in the area in the near future, it is necessary to start today the efforts to clean up the area.
"Thousands of projectiles were fired in the siege, there was a massive use of grenades, including grenades, and many rockets and rockets were launched," says Dr. Yael Mason, former head of the Industrial Wastewater, Fuels and Contaminated Soils Division at the Ministry of Environmental Protection and currently an environmental consultant to international organizations on contaminated soils and sewage. "All of these contain a large amount of explosives - which are polluting substances. They contain heavy metals - mainly lead, as well as tungsten and copper, and also problematic organic substances."
According to Mason, the main polluting and dangerous effect is that of the many fires that Hamas terrorists set in Otef during the attack, which claimed the lives of many and caused widespread destruction. "The terrorists used fuels, and the burning temperatures were very high," she says. "Fuel is a soil pollutant, it contains substances such as benzene, toluene and ethylbenzene which are certain carcinogens - and they were used in very large quantities in the attack."
Beyond the fuel itself, the objects and materials that caught fire in the severe incident are also those that may leave behind contamination, which must be treated for future return to the field. "Furniture that burns releases many pollutants, and also many plastic materials that were inside houses, factories and businesses were burned," says Mason. According to her, centers should also be checked in localities where there were substances whose combustion pollutes, such as businesses that use metals or agricultural facilities where pesticides are found.
In addition, on October 7, hundreds if not thousands of cars were also burned, both in the settlements and in the area of the bloody Nova party. "Cars have components that include dangerous substances: fuels and oils, heavy metals such as lead, and the catalytic converter in the exhaust has palladium - a metal that also has a radioactive component that crumbles to the ground if it is burned," says Shay Parr, CEO of AID Engineering and Ecology Ltd., which deals with the restoration of environmental damages. "What was not burned of all these materials spilled onto the ground, and what was burned also leaked onto the ground. Since there were so many cars that were damaged, over large areas - the soils are contaminated." According to him, beyond the damage to the soil itself, the pollution may reach our drinking water. "We are before the rainy season - rain will fall, these substances will seep through the soil to the depths of the soil and may contaminate the groundwater."
There is asbestos in the air
A key risk that is often mentioned in the context of frequent rocket attacks is Asbestos: This is a group of 6 minerals whose structure is of thin microscopic fibers, QUsed for more than 100 years In a very wide variety of construction materials due to their high resistance to extreme conditions and their longevity. It's not for nothing that asbestos got a bad name: exposure to it was clearly linked to the appearance cancer type of mesothelioma as well as lung, throat and ovarian cancer. currently, The law in Israel Prohibits new use of asbestos. It should be noted that when asbestos is intact in a building it is not dangerous - but only when it crumbles.
"The firing of the rockets hit many buildings that contain asbestos," Farr says. "Consequently, people in the vicinity of the building may inhale dust with asbestos components." According to him, asbestos buildings were damaged in the surrounding area - but also in the north, where there are buildings with asbestos roofs and asbestos laths. "Every such damage to an asbestos roof causes it to be shocked, the material crumbles and the scattering of harmful dust over the entire building and sometimes also over its surroundings. It is enough for a rocket to fly near the building and there will be a tremor in it for asbestos fibers to be released into the air." Parr explains that people are unaware of the danger - and breathe the dangerous dust.
When we see damage to an asbestos roof or structure - it is important to take care of it. For this purpose, it is recommended to report to the environmental hotline of the Ministry of Environmental Protection, by phone *6911 - the personnel of the ministry are obliged to come, inspect and deal with the issue. "Asbestos is the most dangerous substance for which supervision and awareness are the highest in Israel," says Parr.
Rats, emissions and dangerous chemicals
Another possible damage of the fighting is the impact of rockets on sewage infrastructure, which could lead to sewage leakage. "Such damage creates contamination in the soil and may cause an outbreak of bacteria, which will lead to morbidity," says Parr. "Rats also circulate in the underground sewage systems, which may rise to the surface of the ground and reproduce - and they spread diseases and bite; This is an environmental hazard that is very difficult to get rid of." According to him, the treatment of the problem includes repairing the defects in the piping as quickly as possible and carrying out targeted pest control operations.
Beyond that, factories were also damaged in the attack on Israel, both from incinerators that were set on fire and from rocket hits. "for example, Damage was caused to the Nirlat paint factory which is found in Nir Oz in Otaf," says Farr. According to him, in factories like this, the chemicals and dangerous substances from which the paint is made are permanently stored. "When such substances are spilled into the ground, soil pollution is created, there may be pollution of the groundwater that we drink, and perhaps even air pollution that harms the many people who are currently in the surrounding area, such as soldiers and female soldiers - who are not even aware of this. They breathe the substances or are exposed to them through skin contact."
Another potential damage associated with factories, and which is also relevant for those not located in the affected areas, is the release of substances very dangerous to health from their chimneys. "Normally, factories are obligated to the Ministry of Environmental Protection to report pollutant emissions and monitor them - but now, in wartime, it may be that the people who deal with the matter at the factory have been drafted into the reserves, for example," says Parr. According to him, the release of such substances creates dangerous air pollution, exposure to which can cause us lung diseases, cancer, damage to blood vessels and brain damage.
According to Farr, it is important that the factories are aware of the problem, and observe the environmental laws even in times of war - to prevent significant damage to our health. "At the same time, it is also important that the Ministry of Environmental Protection tries to enforce the environmental laws, as unpleasant as it is in times like this," he says.
There is something to do
The good news (if you can use such a phrase these days) is that all the damages mentioned so far are possible restore. However, it is a long and complex process. "In the first step, the Ministry of Environmental Protection should publish a tender for land consultants and contact certified laboratories - and if necessary, bring consultants from abroad as well," explains Mason. "First of all, you need to do a preliminary survey that checks the area, and put the findings on a map." In the next step, according to her, the obvious hazards that can be cleaned immediately must be dealt with. "If you see puddles of fuel near houses or stations, for example, or discarded jerrycans - the restoration operations must immediately remove them to the hazardous waste site in Ramat Hovav or to waste disposal sites."
The continuation of the restoration process includes a more in-depth examination of the contamination in the field. "A soil survey, a soil gas survey, and groundwater drilling must be done," says Mason. According to her, it is possible to rely for this, among other things, on the monitoring drillings that the Water Authority regularly performs to test the water quality. "The findings should be sent to the laboratory, to check the presence of various substances, such as household and agricultural pesticides, plastics and phthalates, asbestos and heavy metals." According to her, it is necessary to delineate the pollution in space and know to what depth it reaches. "All these things should be checked in a professional and systematic way."
The next step is the restoration itself - and when it comes to contaminated land, in many cases it must be dug up and cleared. At the end of the restoration, the area must be sampled and make sure that no contamination remains.
Mason emphasizes that the process should be carried out in a large area - both in the residential areas, both in public areas and in military bases, and not only in the Otaf - but to some extent in other areas as well that were significantly affected by the war, like Ashkelon.
"This whole process can take many months," says Mason. As I recall, Minister Benny Gantz recently noted The residents of the Otaf must prepare to live in alternative locations for at least a year. "You can start getting organized," Mason clarifies.
to protect the residents of the Otaf
"I suggest to every person who is now walking around the surrounding area to at least wear a respirator (a filtering face mask, RO), like in Corona, and if you have to touch something - use gloves and then throw them in the trash," Farr says. "You never know what infection we touch - most infections are microscopic and the human eye cannot see them. Just to explain the ear - an asbestos fiber is 10 times smaller than a human hair."
Farr clarifies that it is mandatory to address the health-environmental hazards before the other rehabilitation measures that must be carried out in the area - and certainly and certainly before a civilian population returns to the area. "Returning a population to a diseased place will create high morbidity over the years, which may even lead to deformities in children who will be born later," he says. "Awareness is the key".
"The residents of Otef have suffered enough - they don't need to suffer health damage as well," concludes Mason.
The Ministry of Environmental Protection stated in response:
The Ministry of Environmental Protection works regularly to map hazards from the fighting and works in coordination with all the parties, including: the local authorities, the environmental units, the Western Negev cluster of authorities, the Home Front Command, the Southern Command and the various government ministries. In the case of hazards with a high level of danger (such as hazardous materials, asbestos or carcasses), the Ministry gives instructions on how to handle the hazard and ensures that the hazard is handled immediately. Thus, the ministry contacted a large number of factories and demanded the removal of the waste stored in the factory in order to leave a place to store waste in the event of an injury. The Industrial Wastewater, Fuels and Contaminated Soils Division in the Ministry of Environmental Protection is in direct contact with major companies that hold fuels (including Ktsa, XNUMX, the defense system, Pi Galilot, the electricity company, etc.). The ministry budgets the local authorities through the clusters of authorities for the purpose of placing additional retention tools to prevent improper consequences (instead of those that were damaged or taken to military concentrations), carrying out regular removal of excess waste, treatment of waste hazards and prevention of waste hazards. At the same time, the office is active in the Takuma administration and within this framework works, among other things, to promote the mapping and regulation of all environmental hazards after the end of the fighting. As for enforcement, the office works to enforce environmental hazards in accordance with standards and criteria in relation to the seriousness of the offenses, all subject to discretion and unique circumstances at this time.