Environmental issues occupy a considerable proportion of the time and resources of local governments, and directly impact on the quality of life and well-being of citizens. This is the reason a number of local and regional governments decided to join forces and establish the Municipal Environmental Associations of Judea and Samaria.
The Municipal Environmental Associations of Judea and Samaria unite all the local and regional governments in Judea and Samaria under one umbrella and work together to promote environmental protection in the entire area.
The Associations have a number of functions and goals:
Solid waste: To formulate a policy for the treatment of solid waste and sewage and help find solutions.
Industry and business permits: Supervision of industrial plants and the creation of special provisions in business permits to minimize industrial pollution an damage to the environment.
Environmental hazards: The treatment of problems of air, noise and radiation pollution and pests.
Hazardous materials: Assistance in the supervision and treatment of events related to hazardous materials.
Education and the environment: Increasing awareness of the importance of safeguarding the environment among people of all ages and among decision and policymakers.
Environmental planning: Counseling and guidance on matters of environmental planning in order to minimize hazards in the planning stages.
Legislation: The passing of laws to protect the environment.
Israelis-Palestinians: Cooperation with the Palestinian Authority in various areas.
Proper planning that takes environmental factors into account can prevent future environmental hazards and damage. This is, therefore, an extremely important tool in the protection of the environment. In order to have a say in planning, the Municipal Environmental Associations participate in local planning committees and in the governmental planning council, where they express their views on the environmental aspects of every plan or project brought before the committees. The Associations are involved in regional masterplans, plans for industrial zones, waste removal sites, and sewage treatment plants. The Associations also require that environmental impact surveys be conducted, and they participate in the preparation of the guidelines and in the examination of the results.
The Associations have a Geographic Information System (GIS), a computerized system which enables them to display data on maps or aerial photographs. The numerous levels of information are displayed, superimposed one over the other, making it possible to identify the points of friction that environmental hazards may cause. Some of the levels of data have been collected from outside organizations such as the Ministry of Environmental Affairs, the National Parks Authority, the Civil Administration, the Health Ministry, etc, with the balance of the data collected by the Associations. In order to build new levels of information, the Associations have been conducting surveys, such as a dumpsites survey, a agro-ecological survey, a sewage systems survey, and more.
Education and Information
It is very important to cultivate an awareness of the importance of preserving the environment in order to implement and promote the treatment of environmental hazards. The Associations endeavor to increase this awareness and impart environmental values by means of activities in kindergartens and schools, in-service training courses and lectures for teachers and community leaders, the development of educational teaching kits, environmental projects, such as the collection of used batteries, composters, the adoption of sites, recruiting cleanliness “trustees,” the Students in Green forum, etc.
Industry and business permits
Industrial plants emit pollutants of different types into the environment, such as: industrial sewage, solid waste, air pollutants, soil pollutants, smells and noise. The Associations fulfill an important role in identifying hazards and preventing them. The Associations help the planning committees and industrial zone administrations to find out which plants will be receive permits and where, what hazards are liable to be created and how to minimize them. The introduction of special provisions into the plant’s business permit and supervision of their implementation can minimize the damage caused by industrial environmental hazards.
The settlements of Judea and Samaria are located above the mountain aquifer, which is a major natural water reservoir. There is a danger that the runoff from dumpsites will filter into the groundwater and pollute it and that indiscriminate removal of waste through means that contravene environmental regulations will cause irreversible damage to the groundwater reservoirs in the area. The Associations are working to close wildcat dumpsites in the area and to open environmental-friendly dumpsites that keep ecological damage to a minimum. The sites serve the entire population of Judea and Samaria, including Palestinians.
Numerous substances are defined as hazardous, such as fuels, gases, explosives, acids and alkalis, oxidizing agents, organic solvents and many other groups of other chemical agents.
There exists a danger that these substances could be released into the air, spill or explode, harming people or property.
When hazardous substances are stored properly and safely, they do not cause any harm. However, when they are stored improperly or transported on roads, they are liable to become involved in accidents or fires, which could develop into a hazardous-substance event.
:The Associations deal with hazardous substances on two levels
1. Supervision of plants that use hazardous substances and dealing with the issuing of poison permits;
2. The treatment of hazardous-substance events on the level of discovery, monitoring and professional consultation to rescue and emergency teams.
The Associations have at their disposal basic equipment for the treatment of hazardous-substance events, which includes equipment for the discovery and monitoring of hazardous substances, protective equipment such as Haz-Mat suits, and breathing systems, such as masks and compressed-air cylinders. Also available are the Ministry of Environmental Affairs’ special mobile units for the treatment of hazardous substances that can be alerted at any time.
There are two types of sewage – domestic and industrial. Domestic sewage refers to the sewage that results from domestic use: bathrooms, showers, washing machines, dishwashing, floor washing, etc. Industrial waste comes from various types of industrial plants, some of which use large amounts of water during the production process, especially food plants and laundries. These plants are often the source of high concentrations of pollutants in the sewage system and this must be treated before it enters the collection system. The early treatment is carried out in a special facility that is placed on the site of the plant itself. Such a facility might be used, for example, for the removal of toxic heavy metals in a metal-coating plant.
Untreated sewage can cause disease, the pollution of groundwater, noxious odors and encourage the proliferation of mosquitoes and other pests. The purpose of the sewage treatment is to clean the water of pollutants as far as is possible and to bring the water to a reasonable level so that it can be allowed to flow in the environment. The treatment includes a number of stages.
1. The collection of sewage through the pipe system and from collectors that transport it from the source of the pollution to the treatment facility.
2. The sewage-treatment facility can use a number of systems:
- a modern sewage treatment plant
- aeriation pools
3. The exploitation of treated drain-water for irrigation and for the removal of the sludge. This is the substance that remains after the treatment and it too must be treated or removed to a waste-removal site or buried deep in the sea.
The air that we breathe may contain various types of pollutants emitted from vehicles, factory chimneys or dust from quarries. The area of Judea and Samaria is characterized by a relatively low level of motorization and few polluting industries. Nonetheless, a study conducted by the Hebrew University shows that pollutants are carried by the air from the coastal area to the mountains of Judea and Samaria. Air pollution from the many cars and plants in the Tel Aviv area and the coastal plain is carried by western winds moving eastward, and on the way some of the pollutants undergo a photochemical process that causes ozone, a toxic gas, to be formed. Monitoring stations have been set up by the Ministry of the Environment in Ariel and in the Etzion Bloc as part of the national monitoring system in order to keep track of air quality in the area.
There are numerous stone quarries and aggregate crushing facilities in Judea and Samaria that emit considerable amounts fine suspended (inhalable) dust particles. The Associations monitor the air in the residential areas located near the quarries and warn of irregular concentrations of dust in the air. The Associations and the environmental supervisors of the Civil Administration oversee the activities of the quarries, making sure that means to minimize the emission of dust from quarries are present.
Judea and Samaria is mostly populated by quiet rural settlements as well as cities that are not metropolises. Consequently, noise hazards are few and localized. The complaints received that are related to noise generally involve IDF shooting ranges, noise from wedding halls and places of entertainment, from animals and air conditioning units. Noise measurement instruments are used to check noise-related complaints. The Abatement of Nuisances Regulations (Unreasonable Noise), 1990 defined the maximum noise levels permitted in various areas and at different times. Violations of these regulations are dealt with in accordance with the law