By: Ana Horvat (Nova24tv.si)
MEP Dr Milan Zver has requested the European Commission in Slovenia to publish all documentation exchanged between the relevant European Commission directorates, agencies and supervisory bodies and the Government of the Republic of Slovenia, the Municipality of Ljubljana and the municipalities of Medvode and Vodice, in the matter of the construction of the C0 sewage canal. “Everything points to the fact that numerous irregularities and omissions of duty were committed in the procedure. The risk of a possible ecological disaster is high,” he pointed out.
MEP Milan Zver also said that the violence and deprivation of property rights of local farmers, who cannot access their land and carry out essential spring work, is unacceptable. “It is worrying that European funds have been allocated to a project that is causing such widespread concern among the professional and wider public,” said the MEP, who hopes that the possible disclosure of internal European Commission documents will help stop the project.
In the introduction to his request for access to all the documentation, Zver pointed out that in Slovenia, and in Ljubljana in particular, there have been mass demonstrations against the construction of a sewage canal system through a water catchment area with the highest level of protection. “Both the temporarily dispossessed owners of the land through which the line runs, and the general public are protesting. The case is being heard in the Ljubljana Administrative Court.” According to Zver, the police are, among other things, using disproportionate and inappropriate force against the owners of the land through which the canal will run. One of them is even known to have been beaten and forcibly kicked for standing on his land. “In the interests of transparency and the appearance of due care and diligence, I would like to see all the relevant documentation.”
The MEP went on to explain what the case is all about. “We are talking about a wastewater connection sewer, which connects the wastewater system of the neighbouring municipalities of Vodice and Medvode with the central wastewater treatment plant in Ljubljana. It is a system that is tens of kilometres long that carries faecal water to the Ljubljana sewage treatment plant through a water catchment area with the highest level of protection.” He then pointed out that the route is located in an area with a strict water protection regime, designated water protection area IIA. The area of the proposed intervention is partly located next to the narrowest part of the water protection area, designated water protection area I, with the strictest water protection regime, within which there are areas of water catchment. According to Zver, this is a water catchment area which represents an important source of drinking water and supplies drinking water to approximately 300,000 inhabitants of the Municipality of Ljubljana, as well as to all those who commute to the municipality on a daily basis.
The impact or possibility of contamination of the water catchment area cannot be ruled out
“The intended intervention in the event of an emergency situation – pipeline leakage, which may occur due to a defect in the material, an overlooked design defect, material deterioration after many years of use, pipe breakage or rupture due to an earthquake, major floods and droughts, or the increasing frequency of possible extreme weather events, etc., increases the serious risk that the Ljubljana area will not be able to ensure a safe supply of sufficient quantities of safe drinking water for the population,” the MEP warned, pointing out that the site is located in an area of high seismic risk. He said that no seismic safety assessments or comparable studies had been carried out during the procedure. He pointed out that, in the event of a natural disaster, the pipes could break or burst, resulting in the emission of wastewater into the water catchment area that feeds the important drinking water pumping stations, which would lead to the contamination of the drinking water source, which in turn would have serious impact on human health. According to Zver, impacts or the possibility of contamination of the water catchment area, which in turn has an impact on human health, cannot be ruled out.
MEP Zver also drew attention to the decision of the Slovenian Environment Agency on the 28th of September 2020, which states that the above-mentioned operation is subject to an environmental impact assessment and that an environmental permit still needs to be obtained for it, which has not been implemented in practice. “The above-mentioned decision corrected the previous conduct of this agency from 2014 to 2020, for which an internal audit report of the Ministry of the Environment and Spatial Planning found that errors had already been made in the previous environmental impact assessment procedure for the proposed operation, or the C0 sewage canal.” He also noted that the construction of the connecting canal was classified as a less complex construction project, although it should have been classified as a complex construction project on account of the design dimensions of the C0 sewage canal (pipe diameter fi 1200). “The Environmental Impact Assessment, which was required for the size of the sewerage project at the time of the issuing of the building permit in March 2014, under the old Decree on Activities Affecting the Environment, which was in force at that time, was not carried out. The application text and the accompanying documentation for the project in question did not show the capacity of the sewerage network in the right scale, but the size of the sewage system was only specified in terms of length – in metres and pipeline diameters, which was otherwise in line with the new PVO regulation”, the MEP pointed out, among other things.
The entire documentation for the construction of the C0 sewage canal is based on a questionable legal basis
According to Zver, the extensive available documentation suggests that the entire documentation for the construction of the C0 canal is based on a questionable legal basis and was obtained in a controversial procedure. He points out that there is also a suspicion that the competent services of the European Commission have failed in their due diligence in reviewing the documentation for the awarding of the European funds, which mainly co-financed the project. The sewage system, which passes through a water catchment area that provides water for the capital’s 300,000 people and 100,000 commuters, cannot in any way be described as a simple facility that does not require an environmental assessment. “By failing to carry out the required environmental impact assessment at the initial stage, the Slovenian Environment Agency has created a high risk of a potential ecological disaster that could threaten Ljubljana in the future.”
“It is also important to note that despite the new request by the Environment Agency and the fact that Mayor Janković does not have a building permit for the entire route of the connecting canal, the works are still continuing,” he warned, adding that the continuation of the works is opposed by the unjustly expropriated owners of the land on the route, the University Clinical Centre Ljubljana, the National Institute of Public Health, environmental associations, and the general public. He also believes it is absolutely worrying that European funding has been awarded to a project which reflects such widespread concern among the professional and lay public for the protection of health and the environment. “In order to clarify and remove all doubts, I also ask you to publish the full documentation received by JASPERS and submitted to all addresses in the C0 Canal case. The general public has doubts about its audit, which was requested between 2015 and 2019,” Zver concludes his request for access.