Los Angeles 10/8/2010 12:18:10 PM
News / Nature

Chemical sludge raising concerns

The chemical sludge that burst out from an alumina production plant in Hungary is traveling along the tributaries of River Danube. Danube is Europe’s second longest river and flows through 10 European countries before emptying itself into the ocean.

Emergency workers were working frantically emptying fertilizers and plaster into the tributaries in an effort to bind with the sludge and neutralize it before it does more harm. The Waste Management Authority is also planning on releasing more water into the Danube in an effort to dilute the red slurry. The heavy metal content in the sludge does not cross the accepted limits but it is still considered harmful because of its caustic properties. All the flora and fauna of River Marcal, one of the tributaries of Danube close to the spill site, is reported to have perished due to the onslaught of the sludge. Authorities had initially hoped that the sludge would be easily neutralized, but as time passes, this is not proving to be the case as the water further downstream remains extremely alkaline. Water samples are being taken hourly by the officials at Serbia, Croatia and Romania who are waiting to see if the sheer volume of water in the Danube would be sufficient to neutralize the sludge before it hits their respective countries.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban described this as an unprecedented disaster. The reservoir break has destroyed the entire village of Kolontar, killing 4 and rendering their properties useless. The authorities had warned the villagers not to consume anything grown in the land near the spill. The Prime Minister finds no point in rebuilding anything on the location and called it a “total write- off”. Had the break in the reservoir happened in the night the list of causalities would have sky rocketed. World Wildlife Fund-Hungary warned that the effect of the spill on the environment could very well be worse than the cyanide spill in 2000.