Environmental group Tzalul congratulated the government Sunday on its decision to move the huge ammonia plant in Haifa to a location in Israel's southern desert. The NGO noted that the decision should have been made much earlier and had been promised by several consecutive governments, but not carried out.
The possibility of a leak of poisonous gas from the plant poses an extreme hazard for tens of thousands of nearby residents.
Mayor Yona Yahav said that he is instructing the municipality's legal adviser to prepare an order for shutting down the plant – an order which will only be activated if the government fails to follow through in full on its commitment. He said the vote was “a historic decision that will end 20 years of red tape and negligence."
Environment Minister Amir Peretz declared in April that he will act to urgently remove the huge ammonia plant from the northern port city.
Peretz’s comments came in the wake of the explosion at a fertilizer plant near Waco, Texas, which leveled homes within a two-block radius.
"Every moment that passes with massive amounts of ammonia stored near the public is a dangerous moment," said Peretz.
"We must not accept the continued existence of the ammonia container in Haifa Bay. We cannot let the images from the Texas explosion also appear in Haifa," he stated.
While the dangers of an ammonia leak are raised periodically by environmentalists and other activists, the Second Lebanon War made the issue even more pressing, as Iranian proxy Hezbollah rained missiles down on Haifa. The contents of the ammonia tank were reportedly gradually emptied during the war.