A collapsed wall of a reservoir holding a highly acidic wastewater is seen in Mishor Rotem, in Southern Israel July 4, 2017. REUTERS/Baz Ratner
June 30th, MISHOR ROTEM ISRAEL
“Toxic wastewater that surged through a dry riverbed in southern Israel at the weekend left a wake of ecological destruction more than 20 km (12 miles) long.
“The flood began last Friday when the 60 meter (yard) high wall of a reservoir at a phosphate factory partially collapsed, letting loose 100,000 cubic meters (26.4 million gallons) of highly acidic wastewater in the Ashalim riverbed. One section of the Ashalim riverbed is made up of narrow canyons, popular for hiking, but no one was around when the wastewater first gushed through”
“Israel’s Ministry of Environment has opened a criminal investigation into the plant’s owner, Rotem Amfert, and its parent company Israel Chemicals (ICL), a leading potash and fertilizer producer with exclusive rights in Israel to mine the Dead Sea.
“All the plants and animals in the valley during the tsunami of acid were probably highly damaged, probably dead,” said Oded Netzer, an ecologist for the ministry. “In the long term, there will be soil damage and large functional ecological problems.”
He said weeks of intense clean-up work, including pumping out small pools of the wastewater that remain along the path, lay ahead, and complete rehabilitation would likely take years.
ICL has stopped using the series of reservoirs where the breech occurred. They contained a production by-product called phosphogypsum water.
The company declined to answer questions on the criminal investigation or about the impact the incident will have on its operations.
Shares in ICL fell almost 4 percent after the spill but partially recovered to trade 1.3 percent higher on Tuesday.
In a statement, Rotem Amfert said it was working “around the clock” in full coordination with authorities, and it would spare no resources to clean up the riverbed.” Ari Rabinovitch for Reuters, July 5th http://www.reuters.com/news/archive/environmentNews
“Israel Chemicals first identified the spill at 11:45 a.m. on Friday (June 30, 2017), after workers found a hole in the eastern embankment of the Rotem Afert plaster pools, which allowed “plaster water” to leak into both pool #4 at the factory and part of Nahal Ashalim, the company said. Plant workers arrived quickly and stopped operations of the relevant facility and the sewage flow, the statement added.
“On Saturday afternoon, the INPA said its teams were scanning areas along a 20-km. strip from the Mishor Rotem area to the Ashalim reservoir, which included numerous basins created by “the tremendous sewage flow.” The flow was so strong at times that water levels reached as high as 4 meters in some of the channels, the authority reported.
“At the same time, inspectors were working to keep animals away from the water and prevent the entry of hikers, because the conditions could be very dangerous to them, the INPA warned. As of late afternoon, the authority said there was still considerable sewage flow in many of the streambed’s channels, as well as a large amount of foam and sludge forming in the very wide opening of the channel.
“Meanwhile, the Environmental Protection Ministry said it had ordered the Rotem Afert factory to cease pumping wastewater into its pools until the ministry is convinced that such an event would not reoccur.
“We estimate that we will complete the samples and measures in the field by the end of the day, and then we will be able to complete the mapping and estimate the initial damage in order to examine and plan with the rest of the authorities how to continue to handle the area from this point on,” Gilad Gabbai, director of the INPA’s southern region, said on Saturday.
“It is important to emphasize to travelers that they should not come to the area until further notice, because it could be very dangerous for them. We estimate that the rehabilitation in the field will take at least a few weeks.” Jersusalem Post Read more: http://www.digitaljournal.com/news/environment/tsunami-of-toxic-wastewater-inundates-israel-desert-over-weekend/article/496912#ixzz4m5qUa6On
PHOSPHATE TAILINGS A GREATER RISK & GREATER CHALLENGE THAN METALLIC TAILINGS
Here is a description of the process and some of the difficulties managing “plaster pools” as they are often called during operations and how difficult they are to close. A ton of tailings is create for every ton of phosphate produced.
“If one of the operating plants is shut down and it is necessary to close the phosphogypsum stack and pond water system, the water in inventory must be treated before it can be discharged. The volume of water that would need to be treated could be as much as 2 to 3 billion gallons. The process water has a low pH of about 1 to 2 and contains a dilute mixture of phosphoric, sulfuric, and fluosilicic acids. It is saturated with calcium sulfate and contains numerous other ions found in the phosphate rock used as a raw material, as well as ammonia from the solid fertilizer manufacturing process.
A Re Examination of How We Provide Phosphates For Fertilizers
Israel Has Lower Grades & Higher Costs Than Other Phosphate Producing Nations
ICL Has Implemented a Filter Press Back Fill System At Its Boulby Mine In Cleveland UK
Andrew Fourie’s latest paper is on the use of Potash tailings for backfill but we have not had an opportunity to read it. Due to cost, Boulby did not use any other fillers. A recent study presented at Marrakesh 2011 concluded that Portland cement was an essential component to the successful long term performance of potash based backfill.
Deposition of phosphate slurry into the sea was common practice until the use of the tailings impoundments .
In the U.S. the western states use underground extraction where backfill might work but in the eastern U.S. most extraction has been by open pit.
There Are Alternatives to Semi Liquid Deposition of Phosphate Tailings
Phosphate Tailings Have a Higher Severity Profile Than Metals Floatation Tailings
The ostensible goal of all slurry deposition of tailings is a dry stack within the impoundment that is stable, non permeable and without seepages. Metal slurries are 68% solid, however, phosphate slurries are only about 3% solid at deposition and never attain a dry state with its own internal structural integrity. As compared with most metal slurries from concentrators, phosphate slurries are characteristically more toxic.
Classified as “Serious” per Bowker Chambers severity classifications based on the described “100,000 M3” release . Images and descriptions suggest a much larger total releases volume. By the Rico-Benito formula the estimate is in the range 700,000 to 1 million m3 for a 60 meter high dam with a 20km runout.
Timeline Details on Criminal Investigation Of Rotem Afert
This link includes video of the release as it occurred and images of the scoured river bed.
The MoEP has launched a criminal investigation against managers from Rotem Amfert and its parent company, Israel Chemicals Ltd. This after a hearing was held at the MoEP’s Southern District office, headed by Baruch Weber.
The Ministry’s Green Police will lead the probe, which will include series of investigative actions against corporate officers.
During the hearing, ways in which the Rotem Fertilizers plant could refrain from activities that could cause additional environmental damage were examined. It should be noted that the MoEP ordered the immediate discontinuance of the use of evaporation ponds 1 to 3, where the collapse occurred. The MoEP has ordered the use of a temporary pond until it is satisfied that the factory’s operations will not create additional environmental hazards.”
Will add more information on history & severity of phosphate tailings failures in history and add correct photo credits for the two additional photos above. Will also post here new information as it develops including on the criminal investigation of ICL subsidiary Rotem Afert for this failure.