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Hearings At The C0 Channel Commission Of Inquiry: Aleš Hojs Once Again Exposed Mayor Zoran Janković’s Lies

Last week, the meeting of the National Assembly’s Commission of Inquiry for determining wrongdoing in the construction of the C0 sewerage channel in the Ljubljansko Polje aquifer area, chaired by MP Anja Bah Žibert, was attended by Aleš Hojs, former Minister of the Interior and candidate for Member of the European Parliament, and Cene Fišer from the Department of Biology at the University of Ljubljana’s Faculty of Biotechnics. The two attended the meeting as witnesses.

At the meeting of the C0 Channel Commission of Inquiry, Aleš Hojs, among other things, pointed to the lack of engineering ethics in the construction of the C0 sewerage channel and revealed who designed the concrete duct channels on the sewer. It was “Mayor Zoran Janković himself.” Hojs went on to reject Janković’s allegations that it was Hojs himself who had mapped out the route of the C0 connecting channel when he was still working for the public company for water supply and sewerage, Vodovod-Kanalizacija (VO-KA). He also pointed out the expensive upgrade of the sewage treatment plant itself, for which he estimated that around 15 million euros were stolen by someone in the process of upgrading it, as that is how overpaid it was.

He said that he had “fallen” into this story solely as a result of the discreditations or lies of Janković, who accused him of having planned the route for the C0 sewerage channel. Hojs explained that he had been employed by VO-KA from 1992 to 2006, a period of 13 years, while Janković had accused him of having planned the route in 1991, before he had even been employed there.

Aleš Hojs added that after the Mayor had made the baseless accusations, he demanded Janković’s public apology, who then formally apologised within two or three days and published his apology in the newspaper Delo. But then, the Mayor apparently changed his mind again, and started talking about the fact that Hojs was not an employee at VO-KA when the C0 sewerage channel was being designed, but was the technical director.

Hojs also revealed to the Commission that Janković had instructed the current director or current departments of the public company VO-KA to find some papers that would discredit Hojs, but they were, of course, not found. They therefore started referring to the fact that they had not found any papers where Hojs had objected to the route. Hojs pointed out that these are absurd accusations, as the route was laid down in a municipal zoning act in 2010, when he was no longer employed by the public company in question.

Hojs was not dealing with the C0 channel, but with the sewage treatment plant

He also explained the technical aspect of the sewerage plans at the time (dating back to the 1980s), which have since changed significantly due to changes in the industry. The original plans were designed to treat wastewater from the brewery and the cellulose industry (both of which subsequently collapsed). Hojs said that he was not dealing with the C0 sewerage channel at that time, but with the construction of a sewage treatment plant, which did not exist back then. Only the mechanical part of the treatment plant had been built and the water was not yet being treated biologically. Hojs was then in charge of the project to build this treatment plant, and this was under the then-Mayor, Vika Potočnik, who, unlike Janković, Hojs said, was not involved in the technical procedures.

15 million euros stolen during the construction of the sewage treatment plant

So, after many years, it was under Hojs’s leadership that the sewage treatment plant was built, at a cost of 40 million euros. If the amount is revalued, it would amount to around 48 million euros today, Hojs said, recalling that Janković needed around 38 million euros just to upgrade the wastewater treatment plant. He pointed out that upgrading the de-phosphorylation and denitrification of a wastewater treatment plant to improve the removal of phosphorus and nitrogen from wastewater usually costs between 20 and 25 percent of the base price. However, Janković paid approximately 75 to 80 per cent of the basic value of the plant for this upgrade. Hojs then said that it was his personal opinion that about 15 million euros had been stolen from this project by whoever was involved.

The Mayor himself designed the controversial concrete duct channels

Hojs also said that at one point, he had received a call from a board member of the DRI Investment Management Company, where he was employed. The board member told Hojs that Janković had ordered them that Hojs should have nothing more to do with the C0 sewerage channel project, so no one would find Hojs’ signatures there. He also revealed an astonishing anecdote about how Zoran Janković, a complete construction illiterate, had himself drawn a concrete duct channel, intended to prevent the sewer pipes from moving.

Fišer: The consequences of the sewage spill will be enormous

Cene Fišer, from the Biology Department at the Biotechnical Faculty of the University of Ljubljana, also testified before the Commission of Inquiry and warned of the consequences of a possible faecal spill on the biodiversity of the Ljubljana – Polje region. All these processes are, he says, terribly slow. As he said, while it is not his expertise, there is a huge resistance in the flow of water, and the time lags can be quite large. “That is to say, when a piece of crap comes down, it will come down with a delay, but at the same time, it will stay there for a very long time,” he illustrated.

“If it is organic, which would be the case in the C0 sewerage channel, it is organic enrichment of that space. In that case, the bacteria that eat it multiply enormously. When these bacteria multiply, they will consume oxygen, and when they consume oxygen, there will be a collapse of this food chain because all the other organisms will die. And our filter, which we have, and which supplies Ljubljana with drinking water, will die,” he said, adding that the purification process will take a very long time.

The C0 channel through the Ljubljana aquifer

The channel will connect the sewerage systems of the municipalities of Medvode and Vodice to Ljubljana’s central sewage treatment plant and is part of the 111-million-euro project called Wastewater Disposal and Treatment in the Ljubljansko polje Aquifer, for which Slovenia has also received funding from the European Union.

Last week, however, the media reported that the Ljubljana municipality had failed to draw more than 3 million euros for the wastewater project by the end of 2023, while Medvode and Vodice were successful. At the end of last year, the period when the three municipalities could draw on EU and national funds for the project in question, came to an end.

But even though the deadline for the use of EU funds has now passed and the project in Ljubljana was not completed on time, this does not mean that the capital will have to repay the funds, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Spatial Planning argues. However, they point out that the municipality must complete the project in full, using its own money, by the 15th of February 2027 at the latest, and connect the inhabitants of all three municipalities to the sewerage system with the sewage treatment plant in Zalog.

If the municipality fails to meet this deadline, the European Commission may “require Slovenia to reimburse funds unduly received or used under co-financing contracts.”

One building permit missing

The municipality is also missing one building permit for the completion of the C0 sewerage channel, for a 128-metre section near the race track in Stožice. In April, the municipality’s Department of Economic Activities and Transport announced that the C0 channel would be completed by the 31st of August this year. MP Anja Bah Žibert points to the unbelievable work of the officials, who told the Commission that one of the ministry’s senior officials had signed some things without even reading them. Another claimed that the last building permit would be issued no matter what happened. She therefore confirmed that Golob’s officials are working on the orders of the Mayor of Ljubljana. Bah Žibert added that she is appalled by this.

Vida Kocjan

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