Environment Protection Minister Avi Gabai on Tuesday promised that the ammonia tank in the city of Haifa will be removed within three years.
The possibility of a leak of poisonous gas from the plant poses an extreme hazard for tens of thousands of nearby residents.
Gabai, who held a tour of the city along with Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman, MK Rachel Azaria (Kulanu) and the CEO of the Municipality of Haifa, Shmuel Gantz, said, “We came to see the ammonia tank and get an overview of how we can fortify it in the near future.”
"In the coming days we will publish a tender for a construction project of an ammonia tank in the south and within three years the State of Israel will cease to import ammonia and the tank in Haifa will close,” said Gabai, who is not an MK but is affiliated with the Kulanu party.
“We will work together, in cooperation, take responsibility together and solve the problem together. We also have the full backing and support of the Ministry of Finance and Minister Moshe Kahlon, who is working with us on the strengthening of the Haifa metropolitan area,” the minister added.
Talk of removing the ammonia tank has been ongoing for several years. Then-Environment Minister Amir Peretz declared in 2013 that he will act to urgently remove the huge ammonia plant from the northern port city.
Peretz’s comments came in the wake of an 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 at the time.
"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.
The previous government voted in late 2013 to move the huge ammonia plant to a location in Israel's southern desert.