From AFP news agency today:
Hungary toxic sludge spill reaches Danube
by Geza Molnar – 1 hr 14 mins ago
“I can confirm that we have seen sporadic losses of fish in the main branch of the Danube,” regional chief for the disaster relief services Tibor Dobson told AFP.
“The fish have been sighted at the confluence of the Raba with the Danube,” where water samples had shown a pH value of 9.1, he said.
“Fish cannot survive at pH 9.1,” the official added.
Water alkalinity is a measure of river contamination and on a scale of 1-14, pH values of 1-6 are acid, between 6 and 8 are neutral, and readings of 8-14 are alkaline.
The toxic spill poured from a reservoir at an alumina plant in Ajka, 160 kilometres (100 miles) west of Budapest, which burst on Monday, sending 1.1 million cubic metres (38.8 million cubic feet) of red sludge into surrounding villages.
Four people died in one of the villages, Kolontar, from where the tiny Torna stream flows into the Marcal.
The Marcal is a tributary of the Raba, which in turn flows into the Danube, that runs from Hungary through Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Romania and Ukraine before reaching the Black Sea.
Romania has asked Hungary for more information on the toxic sludge spill and said it is gearing up for the risk of drinking water contamination in towns along the river.
Adrian Draghici, head of the water management authority in Mehedinti county, 400 kilometres west of Bucharest, said the pollution wave could reach Romania Saturday, adding that water quality controls have been reinforced.
Romanian authorities complain Hungary has not informed them of the exact nature of the heavy metals contained in the toxic mud.
Environmentalists have expressed alarm about the possible long-term effects of the disaster.
“The heavy metals are the danger in the long run,” Gabor Figeczky, acting head of nature protection body the WWF in Hungary, told AFP.
“Heavy metals such as lead, arsenic or chrome cannot dissolve in alkali, but in acid they can, and experts have used acid to neutralize the important alkaline content of the red mud,” he said.
“If the metals dissolve, they sink to the river bottom and get into plants and fish and that’s a poisoning very difficult to deal with. But we have to wait for the lab results to be able to give estimates.”
Figeczky said that “following such devastation, the Marcal’s ecosystem could take between three and five years to recover.”
Water samples from the Torna showed pH levels of around 10 on Thursday but these were falling, Dobson said. On Monday the level was 13.5.
Groundwater in the wells in the region showed neutral readings of pH 7.5.
A spokesman for Greenpeace, Denes Szabo, warned that the neutralizing efforts were also a danger.
“Our main concern is that now that all these neutralizing agents are in the river, they may tip the balance in the other direction, causing even more harm,” he said.
Earlier, Prime Minister Viktor Orban on a visit to Kolontar suggested the destroyed village may have to be rebuilt elsewhere, because the ground has been rendered inhabitable by the sludge.
The devastation following the release of a tidal wave of toxic sludge in Hungary is part of the high price the population is paying for the implementation of the free market economy: here.
Hungary’s alumina spill is one of Europe’s worst eco-disasters in decades: here.
‘Arsenic, mercury’ in Hungary spill: Greenpeace say samples taken in town first hit by red sludge show high levels: here.
Toxic sludge from Hungary industrial accident claims sixth victim: here.
Officials sought to calm fears about the River Danube’s ecosystem on Friday as they claimed that the river was capable of absorbing the red sludge from the alumina plant disaster: here.
This is a video about the Danube delta in Romania.
Conservation groups warned today that a draft law that would hand over swathes of countryside to mining firms could “spell the end of democracy in Romania”: here.
Proposed changes to Romania’s Mining Law to be voted soon by the Romanian Parliament would threaten not only sustainability of the region, but would also allow private interests to overtake state interest, according to WWF: here.
Talking about Danube countries: Over 10,000 people took to the streets of central Sofia on Thursday against the conservative government’s drive to to raise their retirement age: here.