Israeli forces, on 13 February, 2019, demolished a Wastewater Screening Station and other Palestinian owned facilities in the Bir ‘Ona area of Beit Jala town, located south of Jerusalem, central West Bank.
The demolition, carried out without any prior notice by the Israeli municipality of Jerusalem, caused an environmental disaster and major financial losses. According to the WSSA, the flow of wastewater into agricultural lands from the station caused damage to the olive planted lands owned by citizens, contamination to the ground wells, poisoning to the wild animals, odor emissions and rodents, while the financial losses were estimated at approximately 100,000 Euros, according to the PNN.
The Bethlehem Water Supply and Sewage Authority (WSSA) said that its administrative and technical staff had no reports of the demolition consequences since occupation authorities kept delaying their permits to access the site, located in area C of the West Bank, which falls under Israeli military and civil control. The authority also assured that the station has been owned by the Water Authority since 1993, and had received all the legal papers and permits for construction. However, Palestinians in the area still suffer from ongoing demolitions of homes and facilities.
Three weeks into research and contact with the Israeli Civil Administration for access, WSSA said it was shocked to find the magnitude of the humanitarian disaster caused by the demolition, which was already based on illegal procedures.
The Water and Sewage Authority, following its visit to the site — in coordination with the Palestinian Civil Association and representatives of Israeli bodies including the Civil Administration, the Environment and Nature Protection Authority and the Israeli Water Authority — confirmed that the demolition had already caused an environmental and health disaster, holding the Israeli municipality in occupied Jerusalem responsible for the demolition and reconstruction of the station.
The authority added that the municipality must bear the responsibility and reconstruct the station, which it demolished outside of the law. It also demanded to regain sovereignty over the station in order to run it properly, and demanded the Israeli occupation to facilitate the easement of WSSA’s employees and follow-up by the engineers, which would also require a major intervention from the Palestinian Civil Administration Office and stakeholders.