WWF: More toxic spills coming

2010-10-08 21:33

Vienna - More disasters similar to Hungary's toxic spill are "waiting to happen" all along the Danube River, the wildlife protection group WWF said on Friday.

"There are a string of disasters waiting to happen at sites across the Danube basin," the head of WWF's Danube-Carpathian programme Andreas Beckmann said in a statement released here.

"A spill from Hungary's Almasfuzito residue reservoir would seriously impact drinking water, drinking water supplies and the fragile ecosystems of the middle Danube," the expert said.

"A spill from the Tulcea facility in Romania, which has already experienced some leaks in the past, would have a devastating impact on the Danube Delta, an area of global importance for flora and fauna," he added.

The spill of toxic red sludge from an alumina plant in western Hungary on Monday, which has killed six people, injured 150 more and left three people missing, had focussed attention on a "multitude of other sites storing bulk liquid wastes", WWF said.

But Hungarian officials on Friday played down the threat of disastrous pollution to the Danube River from the industrial accident in Hungary, while its prime minister said the situation was under control.

Despite this, dead fish was seen floating in the Danube on Thursday. Environmental officials tried to calm fears on Friday by saying that the water quality samples were close to normal in the river.

Meanwhile, Hungary alone had two other sludge ponds storing similarly toxic and highly alkaline red mud from bauxite processing.

The one at Almasfuzito, just 80km from Budapest, stored around 12 million tonnes of sludge in seven pools covering around 40 hectares, it said.

In Serbia, there were numerous heavy industrial facilities located close to the Danube, including the Pancevo complex of oil refineries, fertilizer and vinyl chloride manufacturing plant and associated storages, WWF said.

Romania - home to the Tulcea aluminium producing plant - was the site of a massive spill of gold contaminated with cyanide that seeped into Danube tributaries in 2000.

The Tulcea plant, with 20 hectares of red sludge, was "linked to caustic dust clouds and numerous leaks into waterways that have killed fish and birds in the heritage listed Danube Delta", WWF said.