Toxic Spill Covers Villages

What is affected
Housing private
Land Social/public
Land Private
Type of violation Demolition/destruction
Date 06 October 2010
Region E [ Europe ]
Country Hungary
Location Kolontar and region

Affected persons

Total 800
Men 0
Women 0
Children 0
Proposed solution Pursue criminal investigations (underway), prosecute responsible party(ies), compensaiton for affected persons and reparation for gross violations.


Land losses

- Land area (square meters)

- Total value
Housing losses
- Number of homes
- Total value €

Duty holder(s) /responsible party(ies)

Private party
Brief narrative Toxic Sludge from Hungary Spill Coats Villages, Threatens Danube

By Talea Miller , PBS

A red-tinged toxic sludge has been winding its way through villages in Hungary this week, the result of a metal plant reservoir that burst its banks in Ajka. The images have been both striking and shocking and local residents are growing more vocal in their distress over the disaster.

Rescue workers continued clean-up efforts in villages already coated in the waste and the European Union called for action to prevent the flow from reaching the Danube River.

"This is a serious environmental problem," EU spokesman Joe Hennon told reporters. "We are concerned, not just for the environment in Hungary, but this could potentially cross borders."

At least four people have died and 120 were injured when the reservoir of an alumina plant about 100 miles from Budapest broke Monday, sending a wave of hazardous liquid into nearby villages. Injuries included chemical burns from contact with the waste. Hundreds of people have evacuated the area.

Hungary has declared a state of emergency in three counties and said the clean-up could cost tens of millions of dollars and will take at least a year.

At a heated town hall meeting Wednesday in Kolontar, one of the villages hit hardest by the spill, angry residents complained they weren`t told the substance was toxic until many people were already burned from contact with it, said Veronika Gulyas, a reporter for Dow Jones Newswires, who is covering the story for the Wall Street Journal.

"There was shouting in the meeting, they invited the [plant] director to walk barefoot with them through the village. They said the houses were not livable," Gulyas said.
Kolontar was hit with a "tsunami of the red substance" Monday, she said, but is now coated in a layer of the sludge about three to seven inches thick. Clean-up crews with shovels and heavy equipment are digging up the top 10 inches of contaminated soil and power washing the walls of homes.

Residents at the meeting, however, were more concerned about compensation for their homes than the clean-up efforts.

"People said they wouldn`t come back here so basically they don`t care how much time this would take, they want to move away from this village," Gulyas said. "Now they know the soil is contaminated, they say they won`t eat what is grown here."

While the spill itself has now been contained at the plant, she said, authorities are trying desperately to keep the waste from reaching the Danube. Workers are pouring plaster into the Marcal river, which feeds into the Danube, to try to bind the sludge, reported the Guardian, and have used other chemicals to try to neutralize its extremely alkaline ph.
Hungary has also opened a criminal probe into the cause of the spill.


Hungary Village Evacuated, Risk of New Toxic Spill

8 October 2010

BUDAPEST (AFP) – Hungarian authorities began Saturday the evacuation of the village of Kolontar because of the risk of a new toxic sludge spill, the regional chief of disaster relief services told AFP.

With the death toll from Monday`s disaster at seven, the reservoir at an aluminium procession plant which released tons of toxic sludge, threatening the river Danube`s ecosystem, was said to be close to complete collapse as a new breach opened up.
"The evacuation of Kolontar began at six in the morning (0400 GMT) after we noticed a weakening in one of the reservoir`s dykes," Tibor Dobson said.

"The decision to evacuate was taken by Interior Minister Sandor Pinter, who took part in the meeting of the local defence committee early Saturday."

He added that the neighbouring village of Devecser could also be evacuated.
Top officials including Prime Minister Viktor Orban, Defence Minister Csaba Hende, national police chief Jozsef Hatala and the national chief of disaster relief services Gyorgy Bakondi were all at the scene.

Kolontar`s 800 inhabitants were evacuated by bus to the nearby town of Ajka and local and international press were also obliged to leave because of the risk.

Dobson said people would be allowed to return after the dyke had been strengthened.

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