In a competition that drew international bids for a first-of-its-kind project in Israel, two government ministries have picked Canada’s EnGlobe Corp. for a $55-million cleanup of the Kishon River, a dumping ground for untreated industrial and municipal wastes for decades.

Last month, the company, based in Quebec City, Quebec, won the global tender that was issued jointly by the country's Environmental Protection Ministry and the Kishon River and Drainage Authority. EnGlobe, which specializes in bio-remediation approaches, beat out about 20 companies from North America and Europe that submitted cleanup proposals, according to firm President Mario Saucier.

“This is the first such project in Israel, and, hopefully, it will lead to the cleaning up of other rivers and streams in the future,” says the Environmental Protection Ministry's Gilad Erdan.  

The firm's biotreatment technology, called Biopile, will be used to decontaminate more than 500,000 cu meters of tainted sediments along seven kilometers of the river, where many of the country's petrochemical and chemical plants are located.  

The companies, including Haifa Chemicals and Israel Chemicals and Oil Refineries Ltd., will cover more than half the project cost.

Saucier says EnGlobe has executed 6,000 remediation projects globally in the past 30 years and annually handles about 1.5 million tons of contaminated soils at its international treatment facilities.

According to a published report, the Kishon cleanup will be EnGlobe's first biotreatment project in Israel.

Yeshayahu Bar-Or, the ministry's deputy director general, says the contaminated materials will be removed through dredging.   After biological treatment of contaminants, the soil eventually will be used for a planned metropolitan park serving the Haifa region. EnGlobe will supervise the park's construction, says the firm. 

The plan involves the use of dredging equipment to excavate the entire bottom layer of the riverbed. The highly contaminated sediment will be removed through a sealed pipe to a nearby site for treatment.

In addition, the current path of the Kishon will be diverted to prevent future flooding in the region, such as the flooding that occurred in early January. The project is set for completion by 2015.

Until recently, the Kishon River was the most polluted in Israel. More than a decade ago, doctors discovered an unusually high incidence of cancer among Israeli naval commandoes who trained in the river, a practice that went on for years.

In recent years, the ministry has imposed strict restrictions on industrial dumping, and these limits have led to some return of fish and other wildlife.