(Courtesy of The Daily Star, July 2, 1998)
Sea is a toxic soup, warns
Families swimming off Beiruts public
beach unaware of sewage, industrial waste and
toxins discharged into water
Daily Star staff
Five-year-old Fala Issa splashed around at the
Ramlet al-Baida public beach yesterday, while her
father watched on unconcerned. On both sides of
the beach, a few metres away, pumps dumped tonnes
of untreated sewage into the sea. The murky brown
water did little to alarm the swimmers.
There is no sewage here. This is only the
mud coming up from the sea. Thats what
violent waves do, the father, Bilal Issa,
But the sea seemed calm with no sign of
So where else are we supposed to go?
asked 25-year-old Amin Haiteh. We
cant afford beach resorts with pools.
Its either here or filling up the bathtub
Scanning the water for his children, Imad Qassar
was shocked. Sewage here? he said,
clearly alarmed. Why arent there
signs warning of the sewage pumps? How are we
supposed to know? Ill never bring my family
On learning of the sewage pipes, Karima Abdullah,
her six children in tow, decided to go to
further up or down, she said.
But she will not find cleaner waters. There are
ten sewage pipes between Ramlet al-Baida and St
Georges alone. If she ventures north or to the
south, she will have to put up not only with
sewage water but chemical toxins as well.
A Greenpeace report released yesterday said many
areas along the coast and several rivers are
polluted by a toxic cocktail of industrial
outflow, leachate from waste dumps and untreated
Greenpeace activists last year took a six-day
boat tour along the coast from Tyre to Akkar,
taking samples along the way and from industrial
areas, including the Bekaa Valley, Beirut and
along the rivers of Bardawni, Ghazayel, Litani,
Zahrani and Ibrahim.The results were far from
The samples contained high levels of toxic
heavy metal like lead, mercury and cadmium,
said Fouad Hamdan, Greenpeace representative.
Sea water between Khaldeh and Jounieh is
highly polluted. Especially, between Bourj
Hammoud and Jounieh where industries are dumping
their chemicals into the sea.
Highly polluted areas include Tyre, Ghazieh,
Sidon, Beirut mainly the stretches
between Khaldeh and Ouzai, Beirut Port and
Jounieh Chekka, Selaata, Tripoli and Abdeh.
Greenpeace said toxic industrial solid waste is
expected to increase from 18,000 tonnes per year
in 1994 to about 64,000 tonnes in 2020.
Industrial waste water is expected to rise from
about 61,000 metres3 a day to almost 200,000
But avoiding the sea doesnt necessarily
mean safety from bacteria and chemical toxins.
Because fish feed on human waste, fishermen are
attracted to sewage dumping areas.
Not only is there a direct risk of
infection by sewage pathogenic organisms
capable of causing disease but also
considerable risks associated with the
consumption of contaminated and improperly
prepared seafood, the report said.
Bacteria found in the sea include salmonella,
shingella, staphylococcus and pseudomonus. So
consumers eating contaminated fish or seafood may
be hit by paralysis, fever, meningitis,
respiratory disease, diarrhoea, gastro-enteritis,
vomiting and hepatitis.
If contaminated seafood, like oysters or
sea urchins, is eaten raw then bacteria
remains, said Dr Ghassan Awar, a disease
specialist. Heat sterilises bacteria
but does not affect the chemical toxins in
Greenpeace identified the main polluters as:
Adonis pesticides; Elie Mwannes Plastics; Seven
plastics chemical; Lebanese-Spanish Tannery;
Mimosa paper factory; Sanita; Tino paint factory
and detergent producers like Oteri; Cimenterie
Nationale; Societe de Ciments Libanais; Sibline
Cement. Also implicated were coastal and inland
dumpsites in Tripoli, Bourj Hammoud, Normandie,
Saida and Tyre; and heavily industrialised
coastal or river areas, such as Antelias and