Ammonia factory
Ammonia factory iStock

In accordance with the Supreme Court's decision last week, Israel's Environmental Protection Ministry allowed Haifa Chemicals to use the ammonia tank until July 31, and froze the status quo.

The court ruled that the ammonia tank must be emptied by July 31, 2017.

The Israeli government plans to request a clarification regarding whether "emptying" the ammonia tank means emptying it to the level of the pumps (its current level) or completely emptying it. Completely emptying the tank will be a lengthy process, since additional safety precautions will be required.

The court will also decide on short- or long-term alternatives. In the meantime, the Environmental Protection Ministry said its position regarding alternatives to the Haifa tank had not changed.

After the court clarifies how empty the ammonia tank must be, and after the plan for emptying it has been approved, the Ministry will make the appropriate changes to Haifa Chemicals' ammonia permit.

In December 2016, Haifa Chemicals received a summons to a hearing with the Environmental Protection Ministry.

On February 1, Haifa Mayor Yona Yahav presented a report proving Haifa Chemicals' ammonia tank presented a huge risk to 600,000 people, who would be killed within fifteen minutes were the tank to explode, rupture, or collapse. On February 12, a Haifa court ruled that the ammonia tank must be emptied within ten days.

However, delays were caused when Haifa Chemicals appealed the courts decision, and Haifa Chemicals workers protested the potential loss of jobs.