STA, 24 August 2020 - More than 200 firefighters battled what seems to be yet another waste site fire this weekend on the outskirts of Ljubljana. The fire at the illegal dump site just off the city's southern ring road was reported late in the evening on Saturday and it took hours to put out.
The fire enveloped a surface area of 8,000 square metres of fenced-off land owned by the company Varnostni Sistemi, the Ljubljana municipality and several individuals.
While Ljubljana police have launched an investigation into the cause of the fire, the Environment Inspectorate said on Monday that procedures had been running against the waste site operator for years and that the person was charged with environmentally-harmful waste processing earlier this year.
While the police investigation is expected to take a while, preliminary estimates are expected in the coming days.
Valentin Sitar, the director of Varnostni Sistemi, which owns nearly half of the land, told public broadcaster Radio Slovenija that the company had terminated years ago the lease with the former lessee - company Avtoodpad (literally translating as car waste).
He said Avtoodpad shut down in 2011, while his company sued it to have the material removed. When this proved in vain, Varnostni Sistemi also sued a physical person, Sitar said, adding that the inspection services and the criminal police had also been informed.
POSEBNO OBVESTILO! Na Cesti dveh cesarjev v Ljubljani gasimo zelo obsežen požar skladišča odpadnega materiala. Na delu...Posted by Gasilska brigada Ljubljana - Ljubljana Fire Brigade on Saturday, 22 August 2020
Sitar said that, to his knowledge, nothing had happened since 2018, when the authorities inspected the site.
The Ljubljana municipality meanwhile said it had lodged a lawsuit against the user of the property in 2013.
The Environment Inspectorate said it found in 2016 that various types of waste were being collected at the site, assessing at that time that 100,000 cubic metres of waste, mostly car parts, building materials, wood and insulation material, were located at the site.
The inspectorate also found that the waste site operator did not have the needed environmental permissions and also did not have the permission of land owners to use their plots. He was ordered to clear the site and was later issued fines worth thousands of euros for failing to comply.
Several inspections followed in 2017 and 2018, a number unsuccessful, because the site was locked. However, the inspectors did find that disused cars had been brought there from Austria by unknown persons.
In 2018, the inspectorate also reported the operator to the police. He told them that Nigerians he did not know occasionally worked at the site. They allegedly entered the premises by breaking the lock, prepared shipments for Nigeria and installed a new lock, when leaving.
Over the past few years, several legal waste facilities caught fire around Slovenia, causing serious environmental concerns. In May 2017, an extensive fire broke out at the Kemis hazardous waste processing plant south of Ljubljana, causing environmental damage and worsening the relationship between Kemis and the locals.