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Hungary: Toxic red sludge has reached the Danube

Oct 7, 2010 8:06:00 AM - thestate.com
The toxic red sludge that burst out of a metals plant reservoir and inundated three villages reached the mighty Danube on Thursday, but an Hungarian emergency official said no immediate damage was evident on Europe's second-longest river.

The European Union and environmental officials had feared an environmental catastrophe affecting half a dozen nations if the red sludge, a waste product of making aluminum, contaminated the 1,775-mile (2,850-kilometer) long Danube.

The reservoir break Monday disgorged a toxic torrent into local creeks that flow into waterways connected to the Danube. Creeks in Kolontar, the closest town to the spill site, were swollen ochre red Wednesday and villagers said they were devoid of fish. Kolontar is 45 miles (70 kilometers) south of the Danube.

The red sludge reached the western branch of the Danube early Thursday, Hungarian rescue agency spokesman Tibor Dobson told the state MTI news agency. He did not address concerns that the caustic slurry might contain toxic metals but said its pH content had been reduced to the point where it was unlikely to cause further damage to the environment.

Dobson said the pH content, which officials earlier said was at 13, was now under 10 and no dead fish had been spotted where the slurry was entering the Danube. The National Disaster Management Directorate, in a separate statement, said the pH value was at 9.3 and constantly decreasing. Normal ph levels for surface water range from 6.5 to 8.5.

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