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Toxic Flood In Hungary Threatens European Water Supply

Toxic Flood In Hungary Threatens European Water Supply

A failed resevoir at the Ajkai Timfoldgyar alumina plant in Hungary caused an angry flood of toxic red sludge to engulf several towns on Tuesday, killing at least four people and injuring over 100 others.

The sludge, a waste product in aluminum production, contains heavy metals and is toxic if ingested. 

TAKE ACTION: Demand stricter policies on industrial waste in Europe!

According to the Hungarian Environmental Affairs State Secretary Zoltan Illes, about one million cubic metres of sludge (264,172,051 gallons) has leaked from the reservoir, affecting an estimated 40 square kilometres (15 square miles).

Six people that were caught up in the disaster are still missing, and the Hungarian government has since declared a state of emergency in three counties.

MAL Rt, the Hungarian Aluminium Production and Trade Company that owns the plant initially insisted the sludge, a by-product of refining bauxite, was “non-hazardous”, according to European Union standards (
This claim is hard to swallow after two women, a young man and a three-year-old child were killed in the floods, and scores of locals suffered burns and eye irritation from contact with the red waters.

The company, which already wants to resume production, also claimed in a statement that there was no way for them to know the resevoir was in danger of breaking. However local environmentalists say they have been warning authorities about the health risks of the red sludge for years (CBC).

As disaster crews and firefighters move through neighborhoods of evacuated houses, trying to clean up the sludge with pressure washers and bulldozers, the European Commission has become concerned for countries downriver from Hungary.

The sludge, which has already contaminated Hungary’s Marcal River, is only 45 miles away from the Danube; Europe’s second longest river and home to many wildlife species. If the toxic waste water enters the Danube, rivers and lakes in 12 European countries will be at risk.

TAKE ACTION: Demand stricter policies on industrial waste in Europe!

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Image: A resident rescues a cat from toxic sludge that flooded the village of Devecser, on October 5, 2010.
Image Credit: REUTERS/Bernadett Szabo (via National Post News).

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9:20AM PDT on Oct 11, 2010

There's no excusing this horror.

1:30AM PDT on Oct 11, 2010


9:16AM PDT on Oct 10, 2010

O número de verdadeiros absurdos como esta lama produzida para fabricação de alumínio, que já está praticamente falida, assim o ponto é tentar uma maior produtividade ou o petróleo que ficou meses sendo lançado ao mar pois, retirar petróleo eles sabem fazer e muito bem mas pensar nas consequencias como foi esse vazamento, está fora de cogitação pois diminui o lucro.

8:11AM PDT on Oct 10, 2010

Walter G., what have you got against the people of Somalia?!? This is a horrible thing that shouldn't be wished on anyone!!

3:50PM PDT on Oct 9, 2010

I signed on Oct.6.

10:59AM PDT on Oct 9, 2010

The poor people I would sue them alot for this.

7:31AM PDT on Oct 9, 2010

If that plant starts up again, the same thing will happen. The plant should be relocated to Somalia!

7:27AM PDT on Oct 9, 2010

That plant is 50 years old, which means it was there in Soviet times. It apparently was allowed to continue operating without any inspections. This is what one can expect when a country has no real government. Pause for reflection here, hey, what about all of our oil and cola related disasters, not to mention Nuclear incidents? This November let's start to put together a real government for ourselves.

10:39PM PDT on Oct 8, 2010

I saw on the news tonight that this sludge has now been recognized as so harmful and the land and water supply so contaminated that some of these people may never be able to return to their homes! Where were the safety inspectors for this company?

7:16PM PDT on Oct 8, 2010

I used to ask my mother--What if we are living at the end of the world-- (and she would say something to dispel my fears. BUT what if we ARE living at the end of the world..... and we have killed it. So sad.

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