Toxic red sludge, a waste product of aluminum production, has reached Europe’s Danube River after a spill at a Hungarian factory drowned four people and left over a hundred injured, many with chemical burns. The Hungarian Academy of Sciences says tests show that heavy metals in the Danube due to the spill are currently far from dangerous levels, however other rivers, villages, and farmlands have been devastated by the environmental disaster which released approximately a million cubic meters of sludge over 50 square kilometers.
“Life in the Marcal River has been extinguished,” Hungarian rescue agency spokesman Tibor Dobson told the Associated Press (AP). The Marcal River flows into the Raba River, which eventually reaches the Danube, Europe’s second longest river and an important water source for many Europeans. Rescue workers are dumping acids and calcium sulphate into affected waters to neutralize the sludge’s alkalinity and bind the material.
Three villages in western Hungary were also flooded with the red sludge, sometimes reaching up to 2 meters in height as it swept out from the reservoir. Parts of Kolonar, the worst hit village, will likely have to be abandoned according to Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban who toured the village today. He said that ruined houses should remain for “posterity”.
Obran has labeled the disaster an “ecological tragedy”, while a spokesperson for Greenpeace International told the AP that the spill is in the top 3 environmental disasters in Europe over the past few decades.
While the mining and processing of aluminum, one of the world’s most popular metals, can lead to a number of environmental issues—including deforestation, water and energy use, and pollution—the material itself is 100 percent recyclable without any loss in its physical properties.
(07/31/2009) A bauxite mine under development by Alcoa, the world’s second-largest primary aluminum producer, will consume 10,500 hectares (25,900 acres) of primary Amazon rainforest and suck 133,407 gallons of water per hour from the Amazon, reports Bloomberg News in an extensive write-up.
(10/06/2010) The cost of environmental damage to the global economy hit 6.6 trillion US dollars—11 percent of the global GDP—in 2008, according to a new study by the Principles for Responsible (PRI) and UNEP Finance Initiative. If business continues as usual, the study predicts that environmental damage will cost 28 trillion dollars by 2050. The new study undercuts the popular belief that environmental health and economic welfare are at odds.
(09/01/2010) Although the mining consortium, United Khmer Group, has been drawing up plans to build a massive titanium mine in a Cambodian protected forest for three years, the development did not become public knowledge until rural villagers came face-to-face with bulldozers and trucks building access roads. Reaction against the secret mine was swift as environmentalists feared for the impacts on wildlife and the rivers, local villagers saw a looming threat to their burgeoning eco-tourism trade, and Cambodian newspapers began to question statements by the mining corporation. While the government has suspended the roadwork to look more closely at the mining plans, Cambodians wait in uncertainty over the fate of one of most isolated and intact ecosystems in Southeast Asia: the Cardamom Mountains.