In light of the explosion at a fertilizer plant in Texas Wednesday night, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan is appealing for emergency funding from the Treasury for the removal of a large ammonia plant in Haifa. Erdan wants to move the plant to relatively empty parts of the Negev.
Haifa Bay is one of the centers of heavy industry in Israel, with a concentration of oil and gas refineries, manufacturing and chemical plants, and transportation facilities, such as Haifa Port. The industrial areas are located at the foot of Mt. Carmel, and are adjacent to residential neighborhoods. Many of the plants in the area are old and are in serious need of upgrade, said Erdan – and all that amounts to a toxic recipe that could result in a major health emergency. “There are many plants in the area that handle dangerous materials, close to residential neighborhoods,” Erdan told Israel Radio.
A year ago, Erdan, as Environment Minister, initiated a plan to begin moving some of the older plants in the Haifa area to less populated parts of the country, starting with the ammonia plant. That plan was postponed due to a lack of funds, and Erdan said that reviving the plan was a matter of national security.
“It's a ticking time bomb,” Erdan said. “We must do something immediately if we want to avoid a scene like the one in Texas,” where the West Fertilizer Plant, located about miles north of Waco, went up in flames at about 8:50 p.m. Wednesday night. Up to 15 buildings were destroyed, and another 50 were badly damaged, officials said, with the death toll possibly reaching as high as 60 to 70 people.