March 1, 2017 / 2:44 PM / 5 months ago

Israel court rejects appeal to overturn Haifa ammonia tank closure

2 Min Read

Haifa Chemicals' ammonia tank, Israel's largest ammonia tank, is seen in the Haifa bay area, Israel, February 26, 2017.Baz Ratner

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - An Israeli court on Wednesday rejected an appeal by Haifa Chemicals to reverse an order to shut the country's largest ammonia tank that residents and environmental groups have said is a major health hazard.

The Haifa District Court said the tank must be emptied by April 1.

"On one side of the balance are the lives and health of hundreds of thousands of citizens, men, women and children, Haifa residents and those who enter its gates to work, shop and be entertained, while on the other side are economic interests," said judge Tamar Sharon Natanel.

"Under these circumstances, there is only one possible solution and that is to dismiss the appeal."

The colossal, circular vat is located in the northern port of Haifa, Israel's third largest city, and can hold 12,000 tonnes of ammonia, which is used in products such as fertilizer and explosives.

The government, looking to remove hazardous materials from the heavily populated area, has for more than a decade been looking for alternatives to the Haifa plant, including building a new one in the middle of the desert. It has made little progress.

The Haifa court stepped in and on Feb. 12 ruled the tank be shut down and emptied within 10 days. But the company, which initially said it would honor the court's decision, appealed the decision a few days later and was allowed to keep the facility open until the appeal was heard.

Haifa Chemicals is owned by a U.S. holding company Trance Resource Inc (TRI), which is controlled by Florida-based Trump Group. This has no connection to U.S. President Donald Trump.

Reporting by Steven Scheer; Editing by Mark Potter

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