Hungary’s Environmental Disaster

The disaster that began last Monday in Hungary continues to unfold.

There have been some new developments in the toxic waste spill originating from an aluminum plant in Hungary about 100 miles west of Budapest. The spill took place last Monday when a retaining dam at the plant failed and released 700,000 cubic metres of what is being referred to as “toxic red sludge”. The noxious waste has covered several nearby villages to a level of as much as several feet, causing their evacuation. It has flowed into several waterways, killing fish and other aquatic life. The spill has been responsible for a reported eight human deaths.

As of today the spill has reached the Danube and although I’m reading a lot of happy talk about the volume of water in the Danube and its rate of flow it remains possible that the spill will pollute a vast area of south-eastern Europe. The Danube continues on its path in Hungary through Serbia, Bulgaria, Romania, Moldova, finally flowing into the Black Sea.

The composition of the sludge hasn’t been reported but to my eye it appears to be a combination of cadmium compounds, likely including oxides and cyanates. Poisonous, to say the least.

Here are the latest developments:

(CNN) — The head of the company at the center of a toxic spill in Hungary has been arrested on charges of public endangerment and harming the environment, authorities said Monday.

Meanwhile, an eighth victim of the sludge has been found, said Gyorgyi Tottos, an official with Hungary’s emergency services department.

“We have found a body near Kolontar that is likely to be the missing person, who would be the eighth victim,” she told CNN. “The identification process is ongoing, but we think this is the person who’s been missing.”

Five European Union experts are due to arrive in Hungary on Monday to find out how badly toxic sludge has damaged the environment and advise on decontamination, the European Union said.

The wall that engineers have been trying to use to contain the spill appears to be giving way. If it does, it could release an additional 500,000 cubic metres of sludge.

I see no way that this disaster could have taken place overnight. Officials are talking about “human error” which sounds like a remarkably benign way of describing the situation to me. In all likelihood it is the result of criminal neglect. I don’t know about you but it certainly makes me wonder what sorts of horrible industrial byproducts are sitting in containment basins not far from where I’m sitting. If it can happen in Hungary can it happen here?

The spill is being compared to Chernobyl and the recent Gulf oil blowout. It will certainly be added to the alarming list of greatest anthropogenic environmental disasters. Why is it receiving so little attention here?

FILED UNDER: Environment, Uncategorized, , , ,
Dave Schuler
About Dave Schuler
Over the years Dave Schuler has worked as a martial arts instructor, a handyman, a musician, a cook, and a translator. He's owned his own company for the last thirty years and has a post-graduate degree in his field. He comes from a family of politicians, teachers, and vaudeville entertainers. All-in-all a pretty good preparation for blogging. He has contributed to OTB since November 2006 but mostly writes at his own blog, The Glittering Eye, which he started in March 2004.


  1. john personna says:

    Weren’t the coal ash floods we had here (last year?) lightly reported as well?

    Not charismatic environmental damage, I guess. Perhaps because we don’t see our food coming from the region.

  2. Dave Schuler says:

    Perhaps because we don’t see our food coming from the region.

    How do we know? The sources of ingredients aren’t generally reported, as we learned during the contaminated dog food story a couple of years ago.

  3. says:

    Willful ignorance… unless it is directly affecting us we don’t want to know about it.

    Same as violence in Darfur, same as poverty in Bangladesh.

    Thanks for the post, I had not heard too much about this up to this point.

  4. Steve Plunk says:

    The overblown gulf oil spill has probably made some news agencies leery and has made US citizens skeptical if any new great environmental catastrophe. We’re worn out and what can we do about it? Pass new environmental rules that out honest people and companies out of business?

    Climategate and the recent revelations concerning California’s Air Resources Board fudging numbers only adds to our environmental fatigue. It may very well be the catastrophe claimed but how do we know? Why should we invest any time or interest in such a thing?

  5. Tano says:

    “It may very well be the catastrophe claimed but how do we know? Why should we invest any time or interest in such a thing?”

    Its scary to see how well the propaganda campaigns work to deaden the instincts of average citizens.
    At least some of them….

  6. Steve Plunk says:

    Tano, What propaganda campaign was that? That’s right there wasn’t one. My instincts are to wait and see when more facts are available. It’s not just me who has progressively moved in that direction.

    How about you offer up some facts to counter that fictitious propaganda campaign you speak of?

  7. Franklin says:

    Well, I for one, really need to get to the bottom of whether Christine O’Donnell is a witch.

  8. wr says:

    Plunk — Wait and see what, exactly? This stuff is so toxic it burns, and the only good news was that the Danube is big enough to dilute it. Meanwhile there’s another wall of this reservoir about to give — because that “honest company” didn’t give enough ot a damn to maintain it.

    I’ll say something for the Hungarians, though. They’re about to arrest the head of that company on crimnal charges. We could never do that here — not with useful idiots like Plunk carrying tainted water for anyone with more money than them.

  9. Steve Plunk says:

    wr, I like the name calling, it exposes your derangement. Wait and see what you ask. Well, I can’t do anything about this so I have the luxury of waiting. I doubt this is anywhere near a Bhopal disaster or Chernobyl.

    The original question was why isn’t it receiving much attention here. I answered that question and all the Left wants to do is shoot the messenger (actually just call names). So check your vapid indignation at the door and tell me what’s incorrect about my answer.