STA, 10 January 2019 - The local community of Moravče, a town north-east of Ljubljana, called a news conference on Thursday to allege that lorryfuls of toxic waste from the site of a 2017 fire at the Kemis waste-processing facility near Vrhnika had allegedly been dumped at a brownfield site in Moravče, allegations that Kemis denied.
Milan Balažic, a former Slovenian ambassador to Australia who was elected Moravče mayor in last year's local elections, laid out the case to the public, urging the government to impose an immediate ban on waste disposal at the site, or else face legal action in Brussels.
"A few days ago we obtained documents proving that tens, hundreds of heavy lorryfuls of toxic waste from the Kemis fire site were buried in Moravče in 2017 and 2018," Balažic said, warning that the site is located in a water protection area criss-crossed with surface waters.
As a result the toxic water is dripping into the local brook, which falls out into the Radomlja river and from there into the Kamniška Bistrica and into the Sava, Slovenia's longest river, he said.
"You understand that what has been hidden in the Moravče valley will not stay there," the mayor said, adding that "we can easily say that this is an environmental time bomb ticking at Ljubljana's doorstep".
The dump site is located on the site of an abandoned quartz sand quarry operated by the company Termit.
Asbestos, glass wool, plastic and oils in the soil
"After 2000, Termit started filling up the holes with building waste material, at least that's what's been published, including asbestos, glass wool, plastic and various oils, all of which became a serious threat to the soil, water and air in the Moravče valley," Balažic said.
He noted that the locals voted against further disposal of waste in a 2007 referendum.
Balažic accused the previous mayor, Martin Rebolj, to have colluded with the management of Termit to go around the result of the vote so that waste kept piling up at the site and even increased "to 100,000 tonnes a year".
Speaking about the waste from the Kemis fire site, Balažic said that "lorries with skull symbols" were spotted carrying waste in the valley even during Christmas and New Year holidays, with "eyewitnesses reporting that workers in hazmat suits were burying the material".
Alongside Balažic, the press conference was also addressed by Ljudmila Novak, a local who serves as MP for the opposition party New Slovenia (NSi). "Lately, we have been noticing that the tap water is strongly chlorinated and the feeling is that it's not drinkable at all."
As an MP Novak will demand a list of companies that bring material to the site, which she indicated came from Slovenia and abroad, as well as official data on the quantities, substances and oversight.
"We're wondering whether the state is wilfully burying its head in the sand, considering hazardous waste removal and processing is not regulated in Slovenia," Novak said.
"We are seeing absurd situations; a company brining in 200 or 300 kilos of building material from Koper. How is it viable for a company to haul such building material from Koper to Moravče? Either it doesn't pay or they are hauling materials that don't belong here," said the head of a local initiative Jurij Kočar.
He reported that from Kemis "130 tonnes of waste water sludge, two tonnes of building waste, presumably from the fire site, and some 60 tonnes of waste of unknown origin" were dumped at the Moravče site in March 2018.
The Kemis fire site restoration officially completed in 2017 and the hazardous waste was officially transported abroad for incineration. "These are official explanations, but it would be interesting to know what from Kemis in fact ended up in Moravče," he added.
Companies reject the allegations
Both Termit and Kemis denied all the allegations, Kemis issuing a statement saying that all hazardous waste from the May 2017 fire and restoration of the site "has been transported abroad for incineration" and that the company had documents to prove that to anyone at any time.
But Kemis admitted to small-scale cooperation with Termit prior and after the fire. "In 2017 it transported about 60 tonnes of non-hazardous waste to Termit, that is unpolluted building material, and in 2018 about 200 tonnes of non-hazardous waste collected from our business partners."
"The claims about Kemis made at the press conference today are completely untruthful," Kemis said, urging the speakers at the press conference to present the public evidence on what was in fact brought to Termit from Kemis.
At the press conference, the Moravče mayor urged the government to ban disposal of all waste in Moravče, prosecute those responsible, commission an independent report to the determine the level of pollution in the Moravče valley, and see to the removal of waste and restoration of the site.
Unless measures are taken, Balažic threatened further steps. "We will initiate legal proceedings against the company Termit, and Slovenia will be reported to the European Commission and other relevant EU bodies for breaking the Stockholm declaration and national and EU law."
Environment Minister Jure Leben has already ordered inspection of the site. "I'm the first to be impatiently awaiting the results. Measures will follow," Leben said on his Twitter account.
Meanwhile, chief environment inspector Vladimir Kajzer told TV Slovenija that seven inspections had been conducted at Kemis over the past three years and that no flaws were detected.