Oct 08, 2010

Toxic Red Sludge Pours Into Hungarian Towns

Industrial waste destoys villages, could affect Danube River and other water sources

Residents of three Hungarian villages that were deluged by a flood of red toxic sludge on Monday will never be able to return to their homes, according to a report by the Sydney Morning Herald. Environmental groups fear that the acidic slurry will affect water quality and wildlife, as remnants of the flood enter the Danube River and seep into groundwater supplies.

The flood occurred after a nearby industrial storage pond burst, releasing 1.1 million cu meters of toxic red slurry. Four people were killed in the torrent, and more than 100 were hospitalized for chemical burns. In total, the flood affects up 7000 people in a 24-kilometer radius.

Efforts began this week to dilute and clean up the sludge to lower risks to people, wildlife and water sources. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban visited the affected villages and determined that they would be uninhabitable, declaring the flood an “unprecedented ecological disaster.”

According to the report, the International Commission for the Protection of the Danube River said the storage pond has been on a watch list of potential industrial accidents that could affect the Danube since 2006. The flood immediately killed stream and river life in the flood area. Although the acidic sludge should become diluted as it reaches larger bodies of water, dead fish have reportedly been seen in the Danube River. Tests have shown that the river’s pH remains in the normal range, government spokesperson Anna Nagy said in the report. Environmental groups remain concerned that the sludge will infiltrate groundwater and affect drinking water sources.