A major oil spill in an Israeli nature reserve could take years to clean up, according to ecologists with Israel’s Nature and Parks Authority. About three to five million liters of crude spilled from the Eliat-Askelon pipeline into the Evrona Desert Reserve near the Red Sea earlier this month, flooding 200 acres of desert with oil. According to the Huffington Post, the slick of oil has pooled in ravines, but without heavy rainfall, it’s unlikely it will reach the sea. Reuters reports that cleanup has begun, with teams vacuuming up the oil slick and digging barriers to stop further spread. However, experts in the country are saying a full cleanup of the spill isn’t likely to come soon.

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“How exactly do you take care of a deer that’s running and limping because of the oil? How do you clean the vegetation? This is very complicated business,” Nature and Parks Authority ecologist Roey Talbi told Army Radio, as quoted by Reuters. “We don’t have experience with something of this scale. Clean up could take months, it could take years,” adds Tali Tenenbaum, spokesperson for Israel’s Nature and Parks Authority.

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Reuters reports the spill happened while a section of the pipeline was undergoing routine maintenance between the city of Eliat on the Red Sea and Ashkelon on the Mediterranean Coast, near the border with Jerusalem. So far about two million liters has been drained with suction equipment and 20,000 tons of contaminated soil removed. The state-run Eliat Asheklon Pipeline Company, which owns the pipeline, is funding the cleanup and considering bringing in experts from other countries to help with rehabilitating the reserve’s ecosystems.

Via Reuters, Huffington Post

Images via Israel Ministry of Environmental Protection