Future Damage of Toxic Sludge

A leading French environmental group warned Tuesday that October’s toxic mud spill in Hungary could cause long-term damage and called for a broad European effort to monitor its effects.

“We are concerned for the mid- and long-term,” Charlotte Nithart, the director of the Robin des Bois (Robin Hood) environmental group, told AFP as it released a new report on the spill.

She warned against “turning the page” on the ecological disaster, which occurred when a holding reservoir at an alumina plant, some 160 kilometres (100 miles) west of Budapest, burst its walls on October 4.

The crack sent more than 700,000 cubic metres of toxic red mud spilling across an area of 40 square kilometres (15.4 square miles), polluting the Danube River and its tributaries and causing an ecological disaster.

Nithart said pollutants would continue to spread in the region.

“The dry summer will see the peak period for dust, while in the winter the humidity encourages pollutants to spread,” she said.

The group has sent its 45-page report to the Hungarian government and the European Commission, she said, in the hopes of highlighting the need for better monitoring of toxic mud reservoirs throughout Europe.

The report said that two affected areas, the Torna and Marcal rivers, were far from clean despite clean-up efforts and that pollutants still present in fish from the Danube could have long-term effects on the local food chain.

The group called for the monitoring of pollutants all along the Danube and said it hoped Hungary, which is taking over the rotating presidency of the European Union on January 1, would ensure a Europe-wide follow-up on the spill.

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