Polluter Pays Principle
Asbestos contamination remains long after asbestos factories have shut down. Airborne pollution from processing as well as the dumping of asbestos waste have endangered generations of workers and members of the public. The health hazards endure even if the companies which caused them do not. It is therefore incumbent upon local authorities, regional bodies and national governments to engage with this problem; the lack of such engagement has been observed in countries the world over.
In Israel, action was taken against the owner of a former asbestos cement factory in the north of the country. Eitanit, which operated a plant in Nahariya between 1952 and 1997, sold or distributed asbestos-contaminated waste for use as filler material or ground covering. It was used to pave over trails, parking lots, domestic yards, public and private roads; as a result wide areas of asbestos waste contamination have been identified throughout the Western Galilee region.
The 2011 Prevention of Asbestos Hazards and Hazardous Dust Law firmly upheld the polluter pays principle. Eitanit Construction Products challenged the constitutionality of section 74 which assigned significant liabilities for the asbestos clean-up costs to a polluting company.1 Eitanit claimed that the law violated its rights to property and equality and imposed a retroactive liability. In April 2013, Israel's Supreme Court turned down Eitanit's appeal; as a result of this ruling the company is liable for 50% of the bill for asbestos decontamination work being carried out by the Environmental Protection Ministry.2 This precedent is highlighted in the Israel Environment Bulletin 2012-2013 which was published in July 2013.3
August 8, 2013
1 Under this law, polluting companies could be held responsible for half of the clean-up costs up to an amount of U.S. $43m (or NIS 150m).
3 Israel Environment Bulletin 2012-2013.