“Two new studies by Beirut Arab University and Lebanese University researchers show high concentrations of heavy metals, residue from olive oil production, dangerous bacteria and other toxins – evidence of untreated waste and illegal dumping in the Hasbani River in South Lebanon and the Lower Litani River Basin.
Much of the pollution found in the Hasbani was the result of olive mill effluent, a byproduct of the manufacturing of olive oil in the region, making the river particularly toxic in November when the olives are harvested and processed. A significant amount of contamination was also caused by untreated sewage dumped in the waterway. The olive oil waste was likely responsible for the high acidity, which can poison marine plants and animals. High levels of phosphates and sulfates were also detected, a result of runoff from agriculture and raw sewage, which can promote the growth of algae that starves aquatic plants and animals of oxygen. All the water samples collected from the Hasbani were contaminated with E. coli and other microorganisms – proof that untreated sewage is disposed in the river.”
Another study of the lower Litani River Basin found ““remarkably high” concentrations of metals in the river sediments – substances that are toxic to marine life and humans using the Hasbani’s water. … [The] concentration of heavy metals, such as copper, iron, cadmium and lead in the sediment exceeded international guidelines at various times during the year. High levels of heavy metals can be toxic to aquatic life. Cadmium is particularly toxic to humans.”
Estimates are that there are “over 700 illegal dump sites throughout Lebanon, with solid waste and sewage contributing to the contamination and industrial plants in the Bekaa Valley polluting the Litani.”
As a reminder: Less than 50% of households in Lebanon are connected to a sewage network, and, of those connected, only 10% are connected to a wastewater treatment facility that does not release the waste directly into the sea.