Thursday, July 31, 2008
Chicken Slaughterhouse: No Happy End
Yesterday the Ministry Of Environment made a surprise inspection of the chicken slaughterhouse with the wastewater problem. The slaughterhouse has a long history of bad relations with the Ministry, since it was discharging wastewaters with excessive protein and animal fat content, high BOD and COD concentration, and it had no separate systems for the organic flow, the saltwater flow and the sanitary sewage flow. Israel is now in water scarcity panic and the salinization of the aquifers has become a critical priority, so this factory is apperntly going to have to serve as sacrificial goat. Apparently, the results of the surprise inspections were unfavourable (there is no report written yet) and the management is in total panic.
The main problem was the excessive salt content of the water, which makes some contribution to the general deterioration of Israeli aquifer quality. When I took over the case four months ago, I submitted a plan to the Ministry, which was approved, and then it was implemented more or less as I planned. I installed an electric conductivitimeter (which indicates the salt content of the wastewater discharge to the public system) to register the salt content of the wastewater and it appeared to produce more or less acceptable results. Then, about two weeks ago, the Ministry visited the factory and discovered that the electrode had been moved to the bottom of the tank, where the water was not flowing, so that measurements were not representative. Worse, they discovered that the electricity supply had been disconnected and the emergency batteries were practically dead. I was shocked by the report, because it meant to me that the Management itself was sabotaging my honest efforts. I said that by now I had done my best and maybe a "heavier" expert could keep fighting the case.
They Dr. P., an Ph. D. in industrial wastewater with relations in the Court and the high levels of the Ministry. During the first meeting at the lawyer's office, he proposed to attack the validity of the conductivity measurement methodology, since the regulations related to actual dissolved Cl Na and not indirect measurements of the conductivity. I said that it was a standard technique used for ages by the Ministry of Environment, and I was not going now to mess with the Ministry's own experts and professors. Under the doctor's leadership they continued to maintain me on the team in auxiliary tasks, behind the curtains as I wished.
The Ministry heard the expert witness testimony of Dr. P. and read his technical reports, but the process continued progressing against the slaughterhouse. Yesterday, as said, they made a surprise inspection en masse, and as consequence, the management is now most nervous and depressed. They fear that the Judge will sign the closure order, or that the Police will arrive any moment to enforce a signed order. Worse, they fear the issue will reach the papers, causing an irreparable damage to their image. The consumers of their products are unable to distinguish between a purely regulatory - enviromental issue like dumping excess salt in the sewage, and a hygienic or health problem of the chickens marketed by the company.
Apparently, they are going to be closed for a while, and they will have to pay a heavy penalty. The fact that now the factory is now 100% equipped and works according to the rules does not help them, because they succeeded in making the Ministry people to hate them for cheating all these years. May be I am wrong, and the Ministry will see that NOW everything is OK and will let them go on operating. I am not optimist, because a well-publicised slaughterhouse closing-down operation would be in the Ministry's best public relations interests. This case may have no happy end.