A dam burst sending a tidal wave of toxic sludge that spread across an area of 40 square kilometers (15.4 square miles) in what officials say is Hungary’s worst-ever chemical accident.
It has killed four people and left scores needing treatment for chemical burns and other injuries could take up to a year to clean up, officials said Wednesday.
The red sludge that killed all life in Hungary’s Marcal river has now reached the blue Danube and the other tributary river the Torma. The Danube is the second longest river in Europe. The disaster began at a waste reservoir in western Hungary where 33 million cubic feet of toxic material began its long spill, flooding more than 6.5 feet high in places.
The tidal wave of sludge overturned cars, swept away possessions and raised fears that pollution. The sludge contains residues from aluminium production which is highly corrosive including toxic heavy metals such as lead, cadmium, arsenic and chromium. The pollution has destroyed all vegetation other than trees and seeped into hundreds of houses in villages and contaminated waterways in Hungry. Leeching fcould bring it through Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Romania and Ukraine before flowing into the Black Sea.
The drinking water system had not been affected, but “as a precautionary measure, people are not allowed to use the water wells”.
Residents were also banned from eating any home-grown produce or from hunting or fishing in the region, she said.
The overall costs of the clean-up and reconstruction “could reach tens of millions of euros (dollars).”
If the Hungarian Aluminium Production and Trade Company (MAL) is unable to drum up the funds, “the sum will be borne by the Hungarian government and possible the European Union.
The company which owned the reservoir, MAL has suspended all operations at the plant amid suggestions that the spill was caused by too much sludge in the tanks.
Company chief Zoltan Bakonyi warned that if production were not resumed soon, MAL could go bankrupt.
The company is the sole large employer in the impoverished region and has a workforce of 1,100.
When will we insist that companies find a process to eliminate toxic waste build up safely? Disasters like this are avoidable.
Excerpts and Image 1. courtesy of http://bit.ly/dd0k0O
Excerpts and Image 2. courtesy of http://bbc.in/d1z5C9