The Wilkowice Dam, designed to improve flood safety and provide water supply to residents, has failed. The Supreme Audit Institution (NIK) conducted a detailed inspection that revealed numerous irregularities. Implemented at a cost of more than PLN 6 million, the investment has done more harm than good, becoming a symbol of the waste of public money. Despite the ambitious plans, the results have been disastrous, and instead of serving the local community, the dam has become a source of numerous technical and financial problems. Has this money really been sunk?

Decision to build a dam

Wilkowice Municipality Development Strategy of 1999. identified the need for a reservoir to supply residents with drinking water and provide fire protection and, in addition, flood protection for the areas below. The municipality has allocated significant funds for land acquisition and preparation of technical documentation. The project was entrusted to an experienced company, but the first problems arose at the planning stage. Initially, the location of the dam was to be on the Zimnik stream, but due to the landslide nature of the land, the site was changed to the Wilkówka stream.

Problems with implementation

In 2002. The contract for the construction and detailed design was signed, and construction of the reservoir itself began in 2005. It faced technical problems from the very beginning. The NIK audit indicates that there were serious deficiencies at the design and construction stages. Despite numerous expert opinions and geological studies, the site proved problematic and the technical solutions used were inadequate. The design did not take into account important circumstances, such as the influx of water from the slopes, which was crucial to the stability of the dam, and the first filling tests showed irregularities in the filtration of water through the dam body, leading to cracks and slides. Despite these problems, the dam was finally put into operation in 2014.

Wilkowice dam to be decommissioned

In the years that followed, the Wilkowice Dam was the subject of many technical problems and administrative decisions related to its condition and safety. In 2015. Wetlands were observed in the slope of the dam, which could indicate problems with its integrity. Corrective measures were taken, but problems with filtration and structural damage continued. In the years that followed, numerous inspections and expert reports were carried out, indicating serious structural problems. In 2017. The Wroclaw University of Technology produced an expert report that stressed that an earth dam was not suitable for the local geological conditions, suggesting that a concrete dam would be a better solution.

In 2018. The Silesian Provincial Inspectorate of Construction Supervision (ŚWINB) imposed a requirement to submit an assessment of the technical condition of the dam and determine the necessary repair work. In May 2019, after heavy rainfall, there was uncontrolled filling of the reservoir, which threatened a construction disaster. As a result, on June 6, 2019. WYWINB issued a decision on the demolition of the dam, which was to be carried out by the end of 2021. In its audit, the NIK confirmed that this decision was rational, given the real risks associated with the continued operation of the dam.

Financial and administrative consequences

The NIK audit reveals that the municipality of Wilkowice has incurred significant costs in the preparation and implementation of the investment. The total cost of the dam’s construction and dismantling is more than PLN 8 million, not including the amounts spent on expert reports and studies carried out during its operation. More than PLN 2 million was spent on the demolition of the tank alone.

NIK points to the now-defunct Silesian Board of Land Improvements and Water Devices (ŚZMiUW) in Katowice as the main culprit for the situation. Making investments in this particular location, among other things. due to geological conditions required the utmost care at all stages – design, implementation and operation of the dam, but according to the NIK, the Katowice office failed to exercise this care.

The NIK stresses that despite the municipality’s efforts, it has not been possible to diagnose all the problems associated with the location and construction of the dam. The decision to build at the originally selected site was based on insufficient geological studies, which was crucial to the failure of the entire project. The audit also found that the Wilkowice municipality did not have the ability to directly influence the construction process, further limiting its ability to respond to problems as they arose.

The case of the dam’s construction and its subsequent demolition has been reported to the prosecutor’s office. However, the proceedings were discontinued. Investigators concluded that the main cause of the serious defects was groundwater, which had not been detected at the design stage, despite the correctly completed geological survey.

Despite the prosecutor’s discontinuation of the case, Przemyslaw Koperski, then a Left MP and now Deputy Minister of Infrastructure, took an interest in the matter. In 2021. reported the matter to the NIK, which conducted an audit, the results of which have just been published.

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