Wastewater treatment lagoon designed by Mapal
Wastewater treatment lagoon designed by Mapal Israel news photo: courtesy of Mapal Green En

Environmentalists have launched a joint project between Israel and the Palestinian Authority aimed at cleaning up sewage in the Jordan Valley village of Ouja. The pilot project will use Israeli technology to help the PA Arab village to upgrade to a modern, eco-friendly sewage system.

Located between Jericho and Beit She'an, the Ouja project will be carried out in collaboration with the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies. Organizers hope it will lead in the long run to the formation of a cooperative framework between Israel, Jordan and the PA on water resources in the region. Meanwhile, however, Israel is being aided by Europe in its efforts to help an Arab neighbor get on its feet in the green scene.

The Mapal Green Energy company has been tapped to build the new sewage treatment facility for Ouja. The estimated cost of the system is approximately $150,000 to $200,000, with up to $2 million needed to connected the village houses to the sewer system.

The money for the project will be raised by the Italian Trade Commission through an appeal to European Union nations.

Barely 22.5 million of raw sewage is adequately treated out of the 150 million cubic meters created every year in the Palestinian Authority.

Inadequate waste water treatment plants have been blamed for the problem, combined with the use of basic septic tanks by most homes and buildings. The majority of raw sewage in the region simply seeps into the ground, contaminating the ground water and aquifer in both the PA and Israeli supplies.  

In Israeli Arab villages, the problem was similar but the situation is slowly improving through supervision, after years when vast sums of money allocated by the Israeli government for the purpose reached the townships but did not find their way to the sewage systems. 

Some media reports have laid the blame for the phenomenon on neighboring Jewish communities, saying their own sewage systems are too small to adequately process the load.

Writing for the pro-PA Green Prophet, for example, journalist Arwa Aburawa cited, with no official reports or documentation to back up his claim,  “incidents of raw sewage flowing from the settlements into the [PA] villages and contaminating water supplies as well as agricultural fields.” The writer further claimed that “over half of the settlements' treatment plants are too small to deal effectively with the raw sewage from the burgeoning settler population.”

Israel is used to being blamed for everything that happens in Judea and Samaria. The claim with regard to sewage is patently untrue, as Israeli communities are supervised in all areas and have to apply for building permits, which include provisions for safety and sanitation. Arab sewage disposal and Arab construction are uncontrolled and unsupervised. 

In July, members of the Binyamin Regional Council complained that pollution from Palestinian Authority towns is ruining natural areas in their region. 

Residents of the PA town of Anata near Jerusalem dump their trash in a pond that is known to be filled with sewage, council members explained. When too much garbage is thrown into the pond, it overflows, leading the sewage to flow into nearby natural streams, among them Wadi Kelt.
Hopefully, the new project will be the beginning of a change that will prevent disease from spreading from untreated Arab sewage to the rest of the area's population.