Following our publication in June 2014, the Israeli Ministry of Environmental Protection (MOEP) recently published its official policy regarding contaminated land. The policy is likely to have considerable implications for the industrial and financial sectors.

The publication of the policy is consistent with the continuous efforts by the MOEP in recent years to pass the “Contaminated Land Bill” in the Israeli Parliament – efforts that are expected to continue with the establishment of the new government.

The policy includes the main principles outlined in the draft published last June. Although parts of the policy reflect the existing MOEP regulations, other sections present new initiatives that may have considerable legal and financial ramifications for the Israeli business sector.

The new policy sets forth several key principles, which include the following:

A risk-based approach is determined for prioritizing identification and remediation of contaminated land.

Surveys and treatment guidelines for contaminated land will now be based upon the Conceptual Site Model (CSM) methodology. This methodology reviews the potential sources of contamination at the site, the potential receptors of the contamination, and the potential means of exposure. Monitoring and remediation actions will be determined based upon exposure paths identified by the CSM.

New rules on intervention by the MOEP in zoning and building procedures have been established. For example, during the course of drafting a general zoning plan it will be a requirement to perform a historic land survey addressing potential contamination of the land.

Quantitative thresholds for hazardous substance releases into soil are set, which will trigger a requirement to report to the MOEP.

Information regarding sites under review of the MOEP due to potential or existing land contamination will now be available to the public on the governmental maps website: www.govmap.gov.il.

Establishment of guidelines for cooperation between the MOEP and the National Water Authority on survey and treatment of sites which are suspected of land and groundwater contamination.

In addition, the MOEP has published several updated and new guidelines which address the remediation of contaminated land based on internationally recognized standards, in order to reverse or stop the damage. This includes updated guidelines for the performance of a historic land survey addressing potential contamination at the site.

Although the new policy aims to set clear and coherent rules regarding the prevention and treatment of land contamination, it is still unclear whether the policy will be able to accomplish its  goal in setting these rules.  Only day-to-day implementation of the new policy will tell if it is practical and reasonable. Other factors, such as the Ministry’s limited oversight and enforcement resources, as well as the introduction of new concepts and methodologies (i.e., the CSM model), will likely influence the manner in which the policy is executed. Nevertheless, firms and industrial plants operating in Israel will now have to consider the new policy, both in their daily operations and in any type of transaction or expansion plan, in order to minimize financial costs and legal liabilities potentially arising from contaminated land.