Environment official says sludge has reached Danube

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Official: Sludge reaches Danube

KOLONTAR, Hungary — A government official says the toxic sludge that flowed from a metals plant reservoir earlier this week has reached the Danube.

Emergency services spokesman Tibor Dobson told the state MTI news agency that the red sludge reached a western branch of Europe’s second-largest river early Thursday. But he says that highly caustic slurry that left more than 100 people with chemical burns has been reduced to the point where it is unlikely to cause further damage to the environment.

Dobson said the pH content of the sludge, originally above 12, is now under 10.

The spill Monday released a toxic torrent into local creeks that flow into a network of waterways connected to the Danube.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.

KOLONTAR, Hungary (AP) — Hungary’s prime minister has visited one of three villages inundated by red sludge and declared the worst-hit area a write-off.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban says he sees “no sense” in rebuilding in the same location houses made uninhabitable by the torrent that poured Monday from a breached reservoir at a nearby alumina factory.

Local officials say 34 houses in the village of about 800 were so badly damaged by the caustic slurry that they cannot be refurbished. Orban spoke Thursday after an unannounced dawn visit to Kolontar.

There are fears that the toxic torrent will cause serious ecological damage to the Danube after being carried downstream by tributaries. Officials say they expect the sludge to enter Europe’s second-largest river by the weekend or early next week.

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