Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Hungary battles to stem torrent of toxic sludge

An aerial view of the red mud covered streets and rescue workers in Kolontar, southwest of Budapest.after a dike of a reservoir containing red mud of an alumina factory in nearby Ajka broke, and over one million cubic meters of the poisonous chemical sludge inundated three villages. The toxic flood has killed a yet unknown number of people with some people still missing.

The thick, red torrent of sludge, which burst from a reservoir at [an aluminum] plant 100 miles south of Budapest Monday, has left yards covered in toxic waste, piled up in streets and poured into fields.

The government of Hungary has launched a criminal probe into the disaster. It has left four people dead and forced the evacuation of hundreds. - abc

The flood, estimated at 185 million gallons, swept cars off roads, damaged bridges and houses, and forced the evacuation of hundreds of residents. People who came in contact with the substance were burned through their clothes. ...

Red sludge, also known as red mud, is a byproduct of the refining of bauxite into alumina, the basic material for manufacturing aluminum, according to the Aluminum Association, an industry trade group based in Arlington, Va. The sludge, a waste product in production, contains heavy metals and is toxic if ingested, scientists say.

The plant’s owner issued a statement yesterday afternoon saying that “the red sludge waste is not considered hazardous waste,’’ according to European Union standards. -

Emergency services in Hungary are trying to stop a torrent of toxic red sludge flowing into major waterways, including the River Danube.

A state of emergency has been declared in three western counties after the chemical waste burst from a reservoir at an alumina plant.

Four people are known to have died, with 120 injured. Six more are missing. At least seven villages and towns are affected including Devecser, where the torrent was 2m (6.5ft) deep. ... While the cause of the deaths has not been established officially, it is believed the victims probably drowned.

Some 600,000-700,000 cubic metres (21m-24m cubic feet) of sludge escaped from the plant, 160km (100 miles) from the capital, Budapest.

With 7,000 people affected directly by the disaster, a state of emergency was declared in the county of Veszprem where the spill occurred, and Gyor-Moson-Sopron and Vas, where the sludge appeared to be heading. ...

via BBC News - Hungary battles to stem torrent of toxic sludge.


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