Hungary Launches Criminal Probe Into Toxic Spill
October 6, 2010 9:17 p.m. EST
AHN News Staff
Budapest, Hungary (AHN) - Hungarian police have launched a criminal negligence investigation after a chemical sludge leak caused the worst ecological disaster in the country's history, prompting the government to declare a national emergency.
Hungarian disaster management spokesman Dr. Attila Nyikos said that authorities have started a large-scale clean up drive but the process will take almost a year to eliminate waste from the aluminum plant reservoir in Veszprem county.
The incident claimed four lives and 120 others are under medical observation; three people are still missing. A day after the incident, the European Union expressed its fears that the sludge might go beyond Hungary's borders through the Danube River.
"We're concerned not just for the environment in Hungary but this potentially crosses borders," EU spokesman Joe Hennon said.
If the sludge seeps into the river, it will affect nations like Croatia, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria, Ukraine and Moldova through which Danube flows before emptying into the Black Sea. According to Hungary's disaster management agency, the sludge contains a mix of hazardous mining waste and water. It is a strong alkali, which agency explained that, if it comes in contact with skin, it would cause burns. Besides, it could also damage lungs and digestive system if swallowed. The ingestion could also be fatal too.
The agency confirmed that the reservoir near the Kolontar village stopped leaking on Wednesday.
The Hungarian company, which owns the plant, MAL, insisted that the reservoir did no show any signs of impending disaster, adding that its officers did not find anything untoward during their last examination of the reservoir pond on Monday.
It further said that the sludge could not considered hazardous under the EU norms. MAL’s comments came in contradiction with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who earlier said that the reservoir was inspected only two weeks ago.