Ofra Wastewater Treatment Facility (top-right) and the raw sewage it is meant to treat

After 14 years, Israeli government to issue tender for the Ofra Wastewater Treatment Facility

Important environmental protection victory: A “Green Now” petition has resulted in an announcement by the state that it will issue a tender for bids to operate a wastewater treatment plant serving Ofra and adjacent Arab villages – 14 years after construction of the facility.

Are 14 years of bureaucratic foot-dragging and ongoing pollution about to end? Yesterday (Thursday), the Israeli government notified the High Court of Justice that it would publicize a call for bids for the operation of a wastewater treatment facility to serve the Jewish community of Ofra in the Binyamin Region, as well as five neighboring Arab villages. In the state’s response to a petition filed by the environmental protection group “Green Now” and residents of Ofra, the High Court was notified that the Civil Administration’s Committee on Tenders has approved the documentation and publication of a call for bids to plan, construct and operate the Ofra Wastewater Treatment Facility (WWTF).

The WWTF at Ofra was built by the Binyamin Regional Council, with government funds, in 2009, but only after construction was completed, the land on which it stands was identified as privately owned. The project was frozen in 2011, before the facility was activated, when leftist organizations petitioned the High Court of Justice.

In its decision, the High Court instructed the state to activate the facility only after completion of legal expropriation of the property, which was duly completed in 2019 – but the facility wasn’t activated. Ever since, millions of cubic liters of raw sewage from Ofra and the nearby villages has continued to flow past the padlocked gates, polluting the soil, poisoning the olive groves and the groundwater.

In a hearing of the Green Now-Ofra petition in February 2022, the justices excoriated the state, and expressed outrage over the length of time that the process has dragged on – over a decade after the previous High Court of Justice decision was handed down. The High Court denied the government’s request for an additional extension of six months in order to prepare for publication of a tender.

Attorney Shlomo Meir Rabinowitz of “Green Now” responded to the announcement: “More than a decade has passed since the High Court of Justice’s decision decried the ongoing, catastrophic damage to the environment that continues with each passing day that the wastewater facility is left inactive. Now that the Civil Administration has announced the approval and publication of a call to submit tenders, we will continue to monitor progress, to insure that the Civil Administration does, in fact, take the necessary steps to activate the facility as promised. It is unfortunate that it took a lawsuit to get results.”

A ground-level view of the Ofra Wastewater Treatment Facility

We pressed, we demanded, we didn’t give up – and the dangerous structure at Yakir junction was torn down!

At the beginning of August, we noticed Arab residents of Judea and Samaria building a structure near the Yakir junction, without the necessary permits. Over the years, shops were built illegally, one after another, next to the main road, leading to traffic accidents going in and out of the junction.

Thanks to Regavim’s intensive pressure on the authorities and the local councils, Civil Administration inspectors came to knock down the structure this week.

This is a chance to commend the Civil Administration for their efforts. However, it’s worth remembering that had enforcement steps been taken on time, the structure wouldn’t have been built in the first place.

We hope that enforcement will be even more effective and swift in the future.