From its inception, all of the news sources in Israel have been reporting the nature of the coastal pollution spill incorrectly. Even so-called “environmental reporters” need some education on what the nature of this oil spill actually is. As a former U.S. Department of Justice Environmental Enforcement paralegal specialist, here are a few pointers starting with the substance involved. The spill was not “tar.” It was waste oil. I say “waste” because it still has not been definitely determined if the oil was deliberately contaminated with chemical additives or toxic materials before being deliberately dumped off our beloved coastline.
It was reported that many volunteers who had responded to assist in the clean-up became ill or were overcome by their exposure to the mysterious substance washing up on the shoreline. This clean-up should never have been permitted until the substances found had been analyzed by scientists. The oil itself is toxic enough to marine life and humans who come into contact with it. Even the presence of oil spills makes people, marine life and wildlife ill, if it does not prove outright fatal. You can see this fact if you look at the cancer rates of Alaskans who lived adjacent to the Exxon Valdez oil spoil in the 1980s.
Tar is too heavy a substance and would immediately sink to the bottom of the water. Primarily, oil floats. This is critical to know as they actually do manufacture these things called “booms.” Booms contain oil spills and keep them from spreading until the oil can be sucked up and removed of properly. What I cannot fathom is why Israel does not possess any booms insofar as her coast is dotted with oil rigs who are currently extracting natural gas and oil. It would have made the clean-up less of a chore and less of a threat to marine life.
Furthermore, this event is a wanton act of terrorism, and frankly, I am mystified that it took Iran this long to figure out that this kind of activity could be useful in their goal of injuring Israel. COVID has already punched our tourism industry in the face. Iran’s belief that by engaging in this sort of behavior it somehow will go unnoticed or unpunished is not only short-sighted it is repulsive. Israel must respond, and I do not mean she should respond in kind by dumping waste oil off Iran’s coast to see how she likes it. There are maritime courts for this sort of behavior although this activity is, for all intents and purposes, an act of war.
Believe it or not, Israel has had a law on her books since 1950 that basically states that anything that is added to her waters is forbidden. Technically, even adding chemicals to cleanse the water to make it potable is illegal. Israel currently has enough issues with pollution of her own making that she does not need any help making more of the state uninhabitable. Hopefully, her response to Iran and her proxy, Syria, will be more engaged and industrious than it has been in dealing with her own pollution events in the past.
Israel’s response to environmental pollution is, to put it mildly, somewhat lacking. Businesses that have been intentionally polluting the country, whether its soil, air or waterways, manage to get off scot-free with barely a wrist-slapping. Any fines given are laughable and do not even begin to remedy the pollution caused. However, we cannot expect the state to be outraged at Iran’s attack while ignoring her own failures in this regard.