From: Tom Levitt, Ecologist, More from this Affiliate
Published October 6, 2010 09:22 AM

Hungary toxic spill 'could be worse' than Baia Mare cyanide disaster

A toxic spill of mining waste from an industrial plant in Hungary is the worst of its kind in the country's history and may end up matching the Baia Mare cyanide spill in Romania in 2000.


An estimated 1 million cubic metres of red-coloured sludge, a mixture of water and mining waste including toxic heavy metals like lead, cadmium, arsenic and chromium, spilled from the Ajkai Alumunia refinery about 160KM south-west of Budapest after a dam broke. The sludge, known as red mud, is a byproduct of the refining of bauxite into alumina, the basic material for manufacturing aluminum.

The spill, with a pH level of up to 13, has already spread into rivers with fears that heavy rains will see it reach the Danube River, sparking bad memories of the Baia Mare disaster in Romania when cyanide polluted water was discharged from a gold mine reservoir poisoning water and wildlife through neighbouring Hungary, Serbia and Bulgaria.

'I hope the incident will not have the same degree of far reaching consequences as the Baia Mare spill,' said WWF regional director Andreas Beckmann. 'But unfortunately we are in the midst of the rainy season and it has rained especially hard in Hungary. This means that the sludge will spread faster and further and it is likely inevitable that some sludge will escape into the Danube.'

photo: courtesy of shows damage from the Baia Mare cyanide spill

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