STA, 27 June 2019 - Environment Minister Simon Zajc visited on Thursday the location of the kerosene leak caused by a derailed freight train near Hrastovlje in SW Slovenia, saying that after the last damaged wagon had been removed from the tunnel, works on removing the polluted soil would start Thursday night. Rail traffic on the section is expected to resume on Friday.
Speaking to the press after a meeting with stakeholders, Zajc said that everything had been arranged with the national railways operator Slovenske Železnice regarding the rehabilitation of the area hit by the spill.
The removal of the pollutes soil will start tonight, with representatives of the Environment Agency and the Environment Inspectorate being present to make sure that the soil is treated in accordance with law, he added.
Asked when railway traffic on the section is to be resumed, Zajc said that "we will speak about traffic once the threat of kerosene getting into the groundwater is minimised."
According to Slovenske Železnice director general Dušan Mes, rail traffic is expected to be resumed on Friday, but he could not tell when exactly. He added that the cargo accumulated in the port of Koper equalled some 200 to 250 trains, which would have to be compensated for in July.
Threat to water remains, further measures needed
The meeting was held at the Koper seat of the regional water system operator, Rižanski Vodovod, as there are concerns that the leak might have contaminated the local river Rižana, which supplies the system.
Zajc announced that the ministry would provide full support for Rižanski Vodovod in terms of monitoring of water and further measures, especially if the kerosene reached the groundwater.
The minister talked in Luxembourg yesterday with his Croatian counterpart, who expressed his country's readiness to help the Slovenian coast needed additional water from the sources from the Croatian part of the Istria peninsula.
Rižanski Vodovod director Martin Pregelj reiterated that the situation was under control, while warning that the threat of the kerosene entering the groundwater remained. The operator is regularly monitoring the quality of water and taking samples, he added.
Zajc added that a permanent solution for an additional water source for the Slovenian coast needed to be found, adding that "this event was a clear signal." He intends to call a meeting with all mayors from the area to agree on how to find a solution.
The work on removing the derailed wagons from the tunnel is meanwhile going as planned. Dragan Puzić of the Koper Fire Brigade told the STA that only two out of the six wagons remained to be removed from the Hrastovlje tunnel.