Israeli ministry confirms Veolia still owns West Bank landfill, despite corporation’s repeated denial

London Dump Veolia protest in April 2010. (Source)

As Veolia has become the target of worldwide campaigns in protest of its complicity in Israel’s violations of international law, costing it public contracts in several countries, the company has tried to evade responsibility. However, Who Profits — a project of the Coalition of Women for Peace in Tel Aviv — received confirmation from the Israeli Ministry of Environmental Protection in response to an application under the Freedom of Information Act on 17 January that Veolia subsidiary TMM is the sole owner and operator of the Tovlan landfill in the occupied West Bank — despite Veolia’s claims that it divested from the landfill in 2011.

The Tovlan landfill is located in the Jordan Valley of the occupied West Bank near the Israeli settlement of Masua. The landfill serves mainly the needs of the Israeli population in Israel and in illegal settlements in the West Bank. Three Veolia subsidiaries in Israel hold permits to transfer waste from Israel to the Tovlan landfill — including TMM — according to Who Profits.

Moreover, international law prohibits Israel from using occupied land for the sole benefit of its own civilian population. In Resolution 63/201 of 28 January 2009, the UN General Assembly called on Israel to cease the dumping of all kinds of waste materials on occupied Palestinian land.

Contrary to the confirmation by the Israeli ministry, Veolia has claimed numerous times it had sold its interest in Tovlan landfill to the Israeli settlement of Masua. By selling off the Tovlan landfill to Masua, Veolia would be entering into a business deal with an illegal Israeli settlement in the West Bank.

Veolia claims divestment

The US North Coast Coalition for Palestine has been campaigning for the exclusion of Veolia from a public transit contract in Sonoma County. The county’s Commission on Human Rights debated the issue on 24 July 2012. Ruth Otte, executive vice president, marketing and communications of Veolia Transportation North America, says the following about Tovlan landfill in the above video:

It was sold last year. I have no reason to doubt that. I have been told that by the top of our company. Now there is a required consultancy that Veolia has to do as the contract transitions. But the contract was sold. We do not have any ownership or interest as Veolia Environmental Services in that contract any more.

The Electronic Intifada obtained copies of several letters in which Veolia has repeated the claim that it divested from the Tovlan landfill.

For example, Ken Westbrook, president transit division of Veolia Transportation North America, repeated the claim in letters to Sonoma County officials of 9 May 2012 and 25 June 2012. Westbrook was more specific than Otte by stating that Veolia had divested its interest in the Tovlan landfill in June 2011 and sold it to Masua settlement.

In a May 2012 letter, Antoine Frérot, CEO of Veolia Environnement, claimed the company sold its entire rights in the Tovlan landfill to Masua on 26 June 2011. At the same time, Robert Hunt, executive director of Veolia Environmental Services UK, made the same claim in a meeting with MP Julian Brazier.

In a June 2011 letter, James Good, president of Veolia Water North America, wrote that the agreement to sell the rights in Tovlan to Masua should be signed any day.

Israel’s recent confirmation that Veolia is the sole owner and operator of Tovlan landfill sheds a different light on the divestment claims by the Veolia bosses. Activists should therefore seriously question any information that Veolia provides for its defense.

Thank you Deppen Webber for spotting the video.


Adri Nieuwhof

Adri Nieuwhof's picture

Adri Nieuwhof is a human rights advocate based in the Netherlands and former anti-apartheid activist at the Holland Committee on Southern Africa. Twitter: @steketeh