Sunday, October 10, 2010

Red sludge pollution in Hungary - Quick facts

Hungary's massive spill of red sludge is one of EU's worst environmental disasters in the last couple of decades. The river Danube, Europe's second largest river, could be under great threat, and according to the latest reports red sludge has already reached the Danube. Hungarian officials insist this is still not a major problem for Europe's second-longest river, claiming that the drinking water supply hasn't still been affected. They also claim that red sludge pollution would be so diluted by the volume of water in the river that nations downstream, such as Serbia and Romania, that they would not be affected.

International Commission for the Protection of the Danube that monitors the river and its tributaries also said that situation is not as dramatic as it looked in the beginning, and that the main threat to the Europe's largest river has been eliminated.

It also has to be said that not all agree with the Hungarian Academy of Sciences which claimed that the red sludge, which burst out of a containment reservoir near the village of Kolontar, did not contain harmful heavy metals. The Greenpeace tests showed the opposite, namely the high concentrations of heavy metals (such as arsenic and mercury) in the sludge which risked causing pervasive and lasting environmental damage in the Kolontar area.

According to the Greenpeace around 50 tonnes of arsenic, 300 tonnes of chrome and half a tonne of mercury were unleashed by the spill, and their analysis of water in a canal near the spill found arsenic levels 25 times the limit for drinking water.

Such contamination with toxic materials poses a long-term risk to both the water base and the ecosystem, not to mention the human health.

This environmental disaster has also caused death of 7 people, with more than 150 people being injured as the result of disaster (mostly burns). Hopefully, similar disasters will be avoided in years to come.

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