Information on this Webpage also relates to the geographically wide-ranging
effects of industrial pollution from Gatačko Polje downstream beyond Fatničko Polje
to the lower horizons of the Trebišnjica River Basin in BiH Eastern Herzegovina
and in the spring outlet zones in the Croatian Littoral Karst of Eastern Herzegovina
from Plat to Dubrovnik and north around the coastline to the Svitava Springs in BiH.
The Devon Karst Research Society & Speleološko Društvo "Zelena Brda"
Istočna Hercegovina, Bosna i Hercegovina.
Источна Херцеговина, Босна и Херцеговина,
Fatnica Polje, Eastern Herzegovina, Bosnia & Herzegovina.
This Webpage updated 12 April 2006.

Fatničko Polje Section 13.0. Webpage Contents :
Section 13.1. General Situation. (opposite);
Section 13.2A.  The Waste Furnace-Ash Problem from TE Gacko 1.
[Origin of Fuel, Creation, Chemical Nature and "Management Control" of Furnace Ash.]
Section 13.2B.  The Waste Furnace-Ash Problem from TE Gacko 1.
[Determining & Observing Downstream Environmental Effects of Pollution.]
Section 13.3.  Hydro-electric Infrastructure.
Section 13.4.  Concluding Remarks.

Click on the underlined Links above to move down to the Sections more quickly.


Above :  An "official" view of TE Gacko I.

Up until 2005., this famous karst polje apparently remained largely unaffected by the human race in its natural condition of karst hydrological functioning. The polje continued to periodically flood on an annual basis, during the winter periods of high precipitation or snow-thaw. Consequently, its ponor and estavelle groups likewise continued to function but not to their maximum natural capabilities, due to the influence of the artificially-high water level in the Bilećko Jezero.
.....13.1.1.  FARMING :
When the polje is not flooded, sheep grazing is the principal farming activity on the polje-floor. Corn is no longer planted, grown and harvested on a large scale, due to the cessation of the local milling facilities at the "Obod" Estavelle. Tobacco plant cultivation has also ceased.
The local villages are, by and large, undeveloped settlements, with little infrastructure to affect the environment. We are not sure of the present situation in regard to the disposal methods of sewage and other wastes. There is no industry in the polje area.
Springs have been tapped for water supply. We have currently identified and water-quality tested the Izvor "Kukalj" and Izvor "Veliki Jastrebinjak", as detailed elsewhere.
There are two cross-polje pipelines carrying fresh water to the principal settlements.
At Fatnica, there is a local service reservoir of 100m3 capacity, situated at an elevation of 565m. asl. This is connected to a nearby pumping station conveying water along a 1.60km length of 90mm diameter mains pipe to a junction, at the other side of the polje, where it connects with another pipeline connecting the water supply from Dabarsko Polje to the local service reservoirs at Pađeni. The main reservoir here has a capacity of 200m3.
Thermal Electric Power Plant Gacko 1.
As previously mentioned in Section 8., there is concern over the environmental chaos that prevails in Gatačko Polje in respect of the furnace ashes that are produced as a result of thermo-electric generation at the TPP Gacko 1. This plant burns the low-quality coal known as lignite, which itself is open-pit mined from the Gacko Coal Basin.
The construction of TPP Gacko 1. and its associated Gračanica Open-pit Coal Mine culminated with its trial operation in February 1983. The mine was said to have a capacity of 1.8 million tons and the capacity of TPP Gacko 1. was designed to be 300 MW. A second unit was planned and was to involve a major reorganization of the natural river courses involving channelling water to the Zalomka River and the major re-positioning of the Rivers Mušnica and Gračanica.
This scheme without the planned expansion is of major detrimental Anthropogenic Impact on the natural karst environment in BiH Eastern Herzegovina and Croatian Herzegovina.
If the expanded scheme were to go ahead, the result would be a major interference with the natural karst hydrological conditions of the polje and at least a doubling of waste ash materials from two Thermo-electric plants rather than the one as at present!!
All the industry infrastructure is ancient. The prevailing management philosophy is one of complacency and un-concern about the storage of the waste in this area. The effects of a known major pollution incident from 1998 whereby a large quantity of this waste directly entered the aquifer feeding Fatničko Polje, (possibly via the intermediate Cerničko Polje), will affect the ecology for a long time to come. We have no guarantee that there is not a continuous low-level or background pollution present in the aquifer, arising from the electric power generating industry in Gatačko Polje. However, with the introduction of our karst hydrochemical analysis programme, some light and truth should be shed on the matter soon. It should be noted that the 1998 major pollution incident was periodically preceded by others and has been succeeded by at least one other such incident. This problem is dealt with in greater detail below.
Since this page was initially published in 2002, changes have been underway within the Power Plant's management régime. However, the changes have not yet brought forth any difference in the "management philosophy" of the Power Plant in regard to serious effects on the natural karst water regime of BiH Eastern Herzegovina and Croatian Herzegovina. The HET Co. in Trebinje have let it be known to us that they disown any responsibility for what is happening in Gatačko Polje, insofar as they are a separate entity within the ERS Power Utility Co.

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General Views of the TE Gacko I. Ash Dump at Dražljevo /
Депонија Дражљево / Deponija Dražljevo :
(Photos :  Dubravko Kurtović, 06 October 2002.)

Photo FP13.2.2...A part of the Project Team undertaking locational evaluation
work on the karst in the run-off zones at the base of the TE Gacko I. Ash dump.

Photo FP13.2.3...A part of the Project Team undertaking locational evaluation
work on the karst in the run-off zones at the base of the TE Gacko I. Ash dump.

Photo FP13.2.4...A view of part of the barren top of the lime-rich
TE Gacko I. Ash dump.

Another "Official" image portrayed on the TE Gacko 1 Website,
indicating futile attempts at sealing the top surface of the Ash Dump with thin foil. Unfortunately, the Ash Dump is unlined at its base!!

"Ugradnja vodonepropusne folije na deponiji Dražljevo."

As an addendum to the pollution incident mentioned above, we can reveal that during the month of September 2002, Members of Speleološko Društvo "Zelena Brda" have collected about 0.5kg of waste ash from the TE Gacko I. ash dump. At the time, there was heavy rain and the leachate emerging from the base of the ash dump measured in excess of pH12.!!! During subsequent re-test in good dry weather a month later, the pH value measured well above pH12 in all locations visited. (Refer to Photo FP13.2.5. below as a typical example).
The collected ash sample is now in the possession of The Devon Karst Research Society. The ash sample has been split into several portions, one of which will be retained by the Society as a reference sample and the other portions to be submitted for analysis.  A full chemical analysis of the ash sample is currently in process. It is intended that the chemical analysis will especially investigate arsenic ion speciation, radioactive content and the presence of all metal ions. Some results have now been obtained but will not yet be made available. Further collection of Furnace Ash Samples was undertaken in July 2004., in order to retrieve a range of ash of different physical appearances.

In August 2005., specific operational details in regard to the chemical nature of the mined lignite and that of the ensuing ash, were revealed to us by engineers in the Hidroelektrane na Trebišnjici Company in Trebinje. They also revealed details of the lack of a responsible operational-control regime at the TE Gacko I. Plant in respect of the management of the dumping and storage of the waste ash. This information is highly relevant when trying to understand the inconsistencies between the results of the Society's Karst Water Analysis and the observations in our Species Sightings Database. They also wished to convey their total non-approval at what was happening and their utter dismay at not being able to directly influence this compound problem in order to put a stop to it. Let us enlarge on these matters .......
.....a)..The Low Quality Lignite Coal Fuel for TE Gacko I. :
The quality of the open-pit mined fuel from the inception of the mining process, was never very good. However, as the pit deepened, the quality has also been reducing considerably. At this current point in time (August 2005), we have been told that the mined fuel from Gatačko Polje now contains about 50% limestone. Furthermore, there is no process for refining it, by extracting or at least reducing the limestone content, before the mined product enters the furnaces of the Thermo Electric Power Plant. This information is something of a revelation. If you have any understanding of basic chemistry, this information alone may lead you to anticipate our next point.
.....b)..The Fuel Burning Process and the Resultant Chemical Nature of the Waste Furnace-Ash from TE Gacko I. :
At the temperature in the furnaces of the TE Gacko I. Plant, the lignite content of the mined product will burn but unfortunately, it will also reduce the limestone content to a very powerful and dangerous chemical. Limestone is essentially Calcium Carbonate, CaCO3 and when this is burned at a high enough temperature, it will convert to "Lime" or Calcium Oxide, CaO, with a by-product of gaseous Carbon Dioxide, CO2. When the waste ash is subsequently collected, removed, dumped and then exposed to water, or in this case rainfall, the Calcium Oxide reacts with the water to form the very caustic or alkaline "quicklime", Calcium Hydroxide, Ca(OH)2. Additionally, it does this exothermically, potentially generating temperatures in excess of 100ºC. Hence, for this reason, there must be very strict controls on the collection, transportation, interim storage (if any) and ultimate dumping and watertight containment of this very dangerous furnace ash. The correct choice of a final and fully-controllable dumping site, is also very necessary and equally critical, to prevent pollution catastrophes and to contain localised problems in respect of storage and transportation in the event of accidents and even in the possibility of extreme climatic events. A "fail-safe" management regime for dealing with the waste furnace ash should be in place, approved by the responsible political authorities and verifiable by independent inspectors.
.....c)..The Uncontrolled Dumping of the Highly Alkaline Furnace Ash from TE Gacko I. at the Dražljevo Ash Dump / Депонија Дражљево / Deponija Dražljevo :
The situation as described above, is already very bad. It gives us no pleasure to warn you that it further deteriorates quite rapidly.
One of the problems associated with the transportation of furnace ash is that of "dust". By the very physical nature of this particular furnace ash, it has to be dampened to reduce the occurrence of dust clouds during transportation to the dumping ground. We have been informed of the general approach with which the employees undertake this task at TE Gacko I.  There is clearly a total absence of any understanding or responsibility on behalf of the employees or management of TE Gacko I, of the waste ash they are creating and subsequently handling.


The 1st issue is that water is added to the cold waste furnace-ash. There appears to be no standard process for determining how much water should be added, insofar as on many occasions, when the "dampened" ash has had far too much water added, it becomes a mobile slurry with thixotropic properties. When dumped on the ash-dump in such a condition, and the weather turns rainy thereafter, a crisis has periodically ensued with small rivers of ash-slurry pouring out beyond the dumping site.

The 2nd issue here relates to what has then followed such incidents. When these events are discovered, a "crisis management situation" ensues and employees are sent to pump the excess slurry into bowsers. These are then driven by road to the ponors in the Lower Polje where the highly alkaline mixture is discharged direct into the trans-national karst conduit aquifer feeding the Middle and Lower Horizons of the Trebišnjica River!!

The 3rd issue is that, even without such crisis events at the ash-dump, the normal situation is far from being acceptable, with the physico-chemical properties of the uncontained leachate-runoff at dangerous levels as it enters the ground and the karst-hydrological system of Eastern Herzegovina.

.....Photo FP13.2.1...A part of the Project Team undertaking locational evaluation work on the karst in the zones at the base of the TE Gacko I. Ash dump (deponija) at Dražljevo. The deponija is situated
.....6km. from TE Gacko I. at an elevation of 1160 m. asl. It has a surface area of 18 hectares.
.....The above view indicates leachate runoff runnels on the south side of the Ash Dump.
.....(Photo :  Dubravko Kurtović, 06 October 2002.)

.....Analysis undertaken by :
.....1st. Ash Sample (from March 2004) submitted for Analysis on 28 March 2004.
.....2nd. Ash Sample (from 22 July 2004) submitted for Analysis on 28 August 2004.
.....Analyses undertaken on :
.....[Details witheld for legal reasons!]

Of some limited interest is the very biased information on the Termoelektrana Gacko Website. This is what the Company has to say for itself in dealing with its mountains of highly corrosive chemical waste :

TE Gacko ima pneumatski transportni sistem pepela od elektrofiltera do silosa. Od početka rada TE do 1996. god. pepeo se deponovao na lokaciju Dražljevo na udaljenosti 6 km od TE. Deponija Dražljevo, površine 18 ha, zapunjena je do kote 1160 mnv i sada se vrši njena konzervacija. Od 1997. god. deponovanje pepela se vrši u eksploatisani dio Rudnika Gacko. Za transport i deponovanje pepela iz TE GACKO na lokaciju u površinskom kopu "Gračanica" usvojen je sistem hidrauličkog transporta sa kontrolisanom koncentracijom i deponovanjem u vidu guste pulpe.

Projekat obuhvata sledeće:
    * pripremu inicijalnog prostora za odlaganje pepela na odabranoj lokaciji (oblaganje vodonepropusnom folijom, postavljanje drenažnog sistema i drugo),
    * instalisanje opreme za pripremu guste hidromješavine, hidraulički transport do deponije i distribuciju mješavine po deponiji,
    * zapunjavanje deponije u skladu sa propisanim procedurama (postepeno nadvišavanje, priprema novih površina za deponovanje i dr.),
    * program stalnog praćenja uticaja na okolinu (oskultacija), i
    * konzervaciju deponije posle njenog potpunog zapunjavanja."

The general statistics elsewhere on their discredited website often provide for much amusement. For example, they claim that TE Gacko 1 is located only 10km from the Adriatic Sea!! 

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Photo FP13.2.5...A typical locational evaluation of the run-off water at the base
of the TE Gacko I. Ash Dump, indicating a value of pH 12.29.
However, the issue does not stop here at the unfortunate ponor. We are also looking at the whole karst water environment downstream of the affected ponors, taking samples of the fish stock. Certain internal organs of the fish behave as pollution-ion receptors and storers. A study of the fish should offer some guidance on the general levels of pollutants in the water environment and the spread or range of the pollution.
The historical result of this type of on-going situation over many years has been clear to see within the karst underground habitats downstream of Gatačko Polje, across BiH Eastern Herzegovina, where there is massive evidence of periodic mass extinctions of cave species followed by periods of their re-establishment. This evidence is exemplified by the karst underground endem Marifugia cavatica. This delicate species, endemic only to Herzegovina, is ultra-sensitive to the physico-chemico properties (and changes of those properties) within its habitat locations across all Herzegovina.

.....Analysis undertaken by :
.....Ash Sample submitted for Analysis on 28 March 2004.
.....Analysis undertaken on :
.....[Details not yet available.]

Further information about the location of TE Gacko I. can be found in the Webpages dedicated to Gatačko Polje, when they are published very soon.
Further information about profiling the karst water quality at many surface and underground locations, from Gatačko Polje down to the outlet karst springs along the Dalmatian and BiH Adriatic Coast and in the Hutovo Blato and Čapljina areas, eventually will be given elsewhere in this Website.

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General Views of the HET Co. Dabarsko Polje to Fatničko Polje Tunnel
Infrastructure in Fatničko Polje :
(Lower 2 Photos :  Hungarian Team, 07 November 2005.)

Photo FP13.3.2.

Photo FP13.3.3.

Photo FP13.3.4.


.....Photo FP13.3.1...A general view of the downstream (outlet) end of the HET Co. Dabarsko Polje to Fatničko Polje Tunnel in Fatničko Polje.
.....Note the usual operational water level as indicated by the sediment staining.
.....(Photo :  Hungarian Team, 07 November 2005.)

1.  HET Co. HPP Fatnica Infrastructure :
There is currently a 3.2km concrete-lined tunnel connecting the Dabarsko and Fatničko Polja. Although HPP Dabar has yet to be constructed in Dabarsko Polje, HPP Fatnica has already been constructed at the outlet end of the Dabarsko - Fatničko Tunnel. This arrangement has permanently affected the natural hydrological functioning and ecology of Dabarsko Polje.

2.  HET Co. Tunnel, Fatničko Polje - Bilećko Jezero :
In its brochure "Electric Power Potential of Republic of Srpska / Elektroenergetski Potencijal Republike Srpske", (2000), the Power Utility of the Republic of Srpska (EPC / ERS) details the long-standing plans by the Hidroelektrane na Trebišnjici Company (HET Co.) to alter the natural functioning of Fatničko Polje in a major and permanent way. Their plans include the completion of the driving of a tunnel from the Lower Polje at Pađeni to their Bilećko Jezero storage reservoir, in order to facilitate the capturing of additional quantities of water to maximize the potential for hydro-electric generation at the Grančarevo and other hydro-electric dams.

This very environmentally-damaging project was well underway before the Civil War of the 1990's halted the proceedings. The total length of the tunnel is to be 15.65km. About 9.6km, (or 61%), has already been completed. The Pilot Tunnel through the remaining distance was completed in June 2005. During the construction of this tunnel, much cave passage has been intercepted and destroyed.

This scheme is of major detrimental Anthropogenic Impact on the natural karst environment in BiH Eastern Herzegovina.

3.  HET Co. Plans for Estavela "Obod" permanently abandoned :
There were also plans to permanently seal both the "Obod" and "Baba Jama" Estavelles, notwithstanding the disaster detailed in Section 8. of these Webpages relating to a previous attempt to seal the "Obod" Estavelle. Indeed, the aftermath of the disastrous previous attempt to block the "Obod" Estavelle, continues to affect its performance, insofar as the concrete plug continues to block the lower of the two natural exits from the master conduit at the base of the entrance funnel. This has caused a dramatic silting-up at the base of the shaft and has also reduced the outflow-rate. There has been no attempt at restoring the natural conditions.
Indirectly, this will mean that any pollution within the master conduit originating from Gatačko Polje, will remain in the system for longer.
We have been assured that any plans to further interfere directly with this estavelle have now been totally abandoned.

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All is not well with the natural ecology in Fatničko Polje!!
Current indirect activities are threatening the special and very susceptible habitats that exist here. Planned direct activities, now being concluded, will permanently destroy certain types of habitat. Is there any hope for ecological understanding and for recognition by the "competent authorities" that Fatničko Polje is more of an asset of natural and national heritage value, if left alone? We now have to conclude that there is no hope of this ever happening.
Time will tell us of the ecological impact of the Hidroelektrane na Trebišnjici Co. on this extraordinarily beautiful karst region?

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