12 Dec

Olive-pressing residue contaminates rivers, ponds

by Mohammed Zaatari,

SOUTH LEBANON: Now that the harvesting season for olives has begun in earnest, owners of olive mills in South Lebanon have taken to throwing residue from the pressing process into riverbeds and ponds, without regard for the severe damage they are inflicting on the environment. This residue – the juice and excess remains that result from squeezing olives – consists of a gluey, black and acidic material. It is being tossed into rivers and into the holes dug in agricultural fields to collect runoff rainwater in the wintertime.

The Hasbani River in the region of Hasbaya is a clear example. Local residents have begun referring to it as the Black River, and complain that it now emanates a horrid odor.

“This is called an environmental catastrophe,” says Amin Hamra, an environmental activist in Hasbaya.

“The filtering stations that had been set up were ineffective since they did not respond to the right environmental and architectural specifications,” he adds.

In Hamra’s view, Hasbaya’s mayors are responsible for the “poisons leaking into the river. The solution does not need a miracle … It simply consists of preventing owners of olive mills from throwing that polluting material randomly,” he explains. “They need to be provided with uncovered holes capable of containing great quantities of olive remains away from riverbeds and groundwater resources.”

Mustafa Bathin, an area resident, also voiced his dismay to The Daily Star.

“Those who are spoiling nature should be held accountable … This is really unbearable,” he adds.

In Marjayoun, the situation is no better. Olive residue is being thrown into the area’s farming fields, filling the holes with menacing black goop, which makes one feel as though one were standing amid a crude oil refinery, not on green agricultural lands.

Owners of olive mills refuse to tackle the issue, however. One such owner offers the following justification: “We are following in the footsteps of our grandfathers … They were doing this hundreds of years ago and nothing changed … Olives are blessed by God.”

[Source] Click here

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