October 12, 2010

Hungary's Toxic Sludge Spill

On October 4, 2010, a million cubic meters (35 million cubic feet) of red sludge spilled from a reservoir at an alumina plant in Ajka in western Hungary. Four people were killed and about 100 injured.* The sludge entered the Marcal River and has reached the Danube. Aquatic life in the Marcal was severely harmed; the mud also caused significant damage in nearby villages and towns, as well as adjacent farmland.

On October 11, when the Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER) instrument on NASA's Terra spacecraft captured this image, the reservoir breach and downstream flow of the red sludge were still prominently visible. The ASTER image is located at 47.1 degrees north latitude, 17.5 degrees east longitude. The image covers an area of 14 by 34 kilometers (8.9 by 21 miles).

Photo credit: NASA/GSFC/METI/ERSDAC/JAROS, and U.S./Japan ASTER Science Team

* At the time of this posting, the death toll has risen to eight; 45 people are currently hospitalized, with two in very serious condition. (Source)

Update:  One of the towns affected by this disaster has made the best of their recovery efforts; see  Eco-Friendly Makeover for Hungarian Village.

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