Jerusalem (CNN)A group of local Israeli leaders have warned Israel and the United States that the sewage crisis in Gaza could lead to the spread of disease and cause long-term environmental damage.
Israeli mayors call on US to solve Gaza's electricity crisis
Gaza lacks the power to run a new sewage facility in the north of the region for more than a few hours a day because of the ongoing electricity crisis. The facility was introduced as a stopgap measure to relieve the burden on the existing plant.
As a result, raw sewage piles up on the beaches of Gaza and southern Israel, contaminating the groundwater in the process. The sewage problem has forced beach closures in Gaza and Israel, as well as the stoppage of groundwater pumping stations.
Calling on Israeli and American leaders to provide Gaza with electricity to run the plants, the group warned the entire region is "on the verge of a health crisis that does not take into account political borders."
In a letter written to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and handed to US Special Envoy for International Negotiations Jason Greenblatt during during his recent visit, the group added that it is "an absurd situation" in which Israel tries to curb the effects of the untreated sewage instead of providing the power to treat the sewage before it harms the environment.
The letter, signed by Sha'ar Hanegev Regional Council Head Alon Schuster and others also warned that: "Without providing a fundamental and long-term solution to the crisis, it will be coming to our doorstep. In addition to the threats of tunnels, mortars and missiles, we will also be dealing with the pollution of the sea and beaches, pollution of drinking water and pollution of the water of agriculture in the area."
More than 100 million liters of untreated sewage are being discharged into the sea every day, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, citing tests by the Water Quality Department in Gaza. In addition, nearly 75% of Gaza's beaches are contaminated.