Hungarian Chemical Disaster

Discussion in 'Current Events' started by Queso, Oct 7, 2010.

  1. Queso macrumors G4

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    #1
    This one just seems to be getting worse and worse. On Monday a sludge reservoir containing the waste products from 50 years of aluminium production burst in Veszprem, Western Hungary. The resulting tidal wave of highly caustic alkaline fluid killed at least four locals and resulted in over 120 people being admitted to hospital with chemical burns, but together with the immediate damage as more details emerge is looks as if the sludge has leaked into tributaries of the Danube River. The Danube is Central Europe's main waterway and downstream of the disaster provides drinking water for several countries including Croatia, Slovakia, Serbia and Romania, as well as the Hungarian capital Budapest. In order to try and neutralise the alkaline the Hungarian army has been tasked with pouring clay and acid into local rivers.

    Local authorities are now saying that it will be impossible to reclaim the directly affected area and it will be better to bulldoze local settlements and abandon the region, including the nearby town of Devecser.


    BBC News from 5th October


    and

    BBC News from Today
     
  2. mrkramer macrumors 603

    mrkramer

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    #2
    I was reading about this, it sounds like it's pretty bad, and will take a long time to clean up.
     
  3. dXTC macrumors 68020

    dXTC

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    #3
    Wow. Looks like Europe now has its equivalent to the US's Deepwater Horizon/BP oil spill-- people dead and waters fouled.

    One big difference: The BP oil spill didn't endanger any potable water source or inhabited inland area to a significant degree. The Hungary spill has, and unless the alkali can be neutralized quickly, clean drinking water could become Budapest's new currency.

    Much of the densely populated area of Slovakia is upstream from the spill site; Bratislava is safe. Serbia's capital Belgrade is downstream, however. This will be quite -- scratch that, very-- messy.

    EDIT: Looks like Budapest won't have too much problem with drinking water, as Hungarians tend to use ground and spring sources for water. Romania, however, is more dependent on the Danube as a water source.
     
  4. fcortese macrumors demi-god

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    #4
    TV images were spooky and reminded me of that scene in Robocop when the bad guy gets melted by toxic waste.
     
  5. snberk103 macrumors 603

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    #5
    Non-radioactive Chernobyl springs to mind. Vast area contaminated for decades, if not centuries, at least. Poisonous substance being moved far away from epicentre by natural causes. It's unknown what kind of long term damage (or perhaps permanent damage) will done both in the vicinity of the of spill, but also far downstream. Immediate damage evident above the ground. Who knows what is happening underground.

    One poster observed that Budapest gets it's water from springs and groundwater. But the water that is in the ground started as water on top of the ground. If that sludge (When that sludge?) gets into the underground aquifers..... well no one really knows what will happen and how far it will spread.

    Does anyone know how much it needs to be diluted to be "safe" to drink? And what the safe levels for long term exposure are? At what point do pregnant women start having deformed babies?

    This is already big. If it gets into the aquifers it could be massive.

    And on that cheery note......
     
  6. dXTC macrumors 68020

    dXTC

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    #6
    That was me, and admittedly that observation was from Wikipedia, so take it with as many grains of salt as you desire. The population of Budapest can only hope that the compounds in the sludge stay mostly concentrated in the immediate vicinity as it eventually seeps underground. If the aquifers there are connected, however, it's "game over", not only for Budapest, but for others downstream.

    The Marcal river is already "dead" from this, and Hungarian officials are desparately trying to neutralize the off-kilter pH levels near the point where it joins the Danube. Unfortunately, this won't remove lead, mercury, arsenic and other by-products dissolved in the water-- it just removes the danger of chemical burns and prevents further fish kills.
     
  7. maril1111 macrumors 68000

    maril1111

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    #7
    Your observation about the water being mainly Spring and groundwater is true because tapwater is qualified dirty. I am Hungarian and yes most people buy st kiralyi or bottled water in the shops.

    Another problem is that the factory were the waste came from only insured itself to a sum of 38000 euros which for a factory is not a lot so it will take a long time even after cleaning t rebuild the houses.
     
  8. pukifloyd macrumors 6502a

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    #8
    This sucks. I hope it doesn't do any more damage.
     
  9. macquariumguy macrumors 6502a

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  10. iJohnHenry macrumors P6

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    #10
  11. R94N macrumors 68020

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  12. Queso thread starter macrumors G4

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    #12
    Not where the tributaries are meeting the Danube thankfully. It's more like 8.5 at that point. The Hungarians are trying to get that below 8 as soon as possible.
     
  13. Queso thread starter macrumors G4

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    #13
    Here's a graph analysing exactly what's in that stuff. Pretty nasty, and now the rains have stopped and the sludge is drying the Hungarians are worrying contaminated dust is going to start spreading the damage further.

    [​IMG]
     
  14. dXTC macrumors 68020

    dXTC

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    #15
    That still doesn't help the people near the spill site. That area will be forsaken for some time to come. Devecser, for example, has been evacuated and may become a ghost town permanently.

    As if the chemicals presented in Queso's graph weren't enough of a mess, Greenpeace found considerable arsenic and mercury in sludge samples. MSNBC.com reports that:

    MSNBC also reported that the amount of material released (sludge combined with liquid runoff) may indeed rival the BP oil spill.

    In a word, yikes.
     
  15. snberk103 macrumors 603

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    #16
    I hadn't even thought about Bhopal, but you're right about Bhopal too. I would not want to be in a town deciding whether it was more like Bhopal or Chernobyl.....

    ....double yikes....
     
  16. Berlepsch macrumors 6502

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    #17

    Greenpeace (in German) has sent samples of the sludge for analysis, and it seems that the really problematic substances are arsenic (110 mg/kg), mercury (1.3 mg/kg) and chromium (660 mg/kg). This corresponds to 50 metric tons of arsenic and 5 tons of Hg that have been released in the dam breach.

    Especially arsenic and mercury have the potential for long-term contamination of soil and water.
     
  17. AllieNeko macrumors 6502a

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    #18
    The sludge is NOT toxic... not in the hazmat sense anyways. EVERYTHING causes cancer. Notice the "silica"? THAT'S SAND! And yes, bags of sand are labeled carcinogenic. Despite millennia of children playing in the stuff.

    None of the constituents of this stuff are extremely highly toxic. Yes, there maybe a little higher metal content in the river. And the stuff is slightly alkaline so it may result in chemical burns with PROLONGED skin contact.

    But the big issue has nothing to do with it being "toxic sludge" - it could be mud made from any ground soil and it'd be just as bad. It has to do with a giant flood of goop coating EVERYTHING in it's path. It's the world's largest mudslide ever.

    But it's not toxic, per se, and it's really bugging me that the media is reporting that it is.

    P.S. it's the calcium oxide that makes the stuff slightly nasty chemically... Calcium oxide is a strong alkaline. That can cause severe skin burns. It's already fairly dilute in this sludge tho, and nothing some good old' acid rain shouldn't take care of :)
     
  18. dXTC macrumors 68020

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    #19
    Not extremely toxic to humans, perhaps, and the people killed so far were done in by drowning in the sudden torrent of muck, from what I understand (feel free to correct me if I'm wrong). However, many people were treated for chemical burns, and the Marcal River is now entirely devoid of fish, so I must respectfully disagree with "not toxic". The river's initial pH of 12-13 is not "slightly" alkaline; thank goodness the river's outflow has been reduced to near 8 where it meets the Danube.

    As far as acid rain... yeah, nature has a way of balancing itself out eventually... whether we humans like it or not.
     
  19. eawmp1 macrumors 601

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    #20
    And your HAZMAT experience would be...? Look up a Class 8 substance. Are you willing to take a dip in the local river or have a slurry pond on your property?
     
  20. gnasher729 macrumors P6

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    #21
  21. lewis82 macrumors 68000

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    #22
    What's dangerous is fine silica powder. Once inhaled, it stays in the lungs, the same way asbestos fibers and (we'll hear about this in a couple years, trust me) carbon nanotubes do.

    Foreign substances stuck in blood vessels can't be good. There is a direct link between asbestos/silica dust inhalation and lung cancer, proven by numerous studies.
     
  22. notjustjay macrumors 603

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    #23
    I just can't get over the fact that in this modern age there are still these huge reservoirs of toxic waste just sitting around, waiting for something to happen. Giant vats full of toxic chemicals, barrels of radioactive waste or contaminated heavy water, you name it, we've made it and buried it or kept it in a holding tank until.... until when?

    I'm not naive enough to believe that the lifestyle I live didn't contribute in some way to this mess, but it's sure easy to turn a blind eye until something like this happens.
     
  23. joepunk macrumors 68030

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  24. Cheese macrumors 6502

    Cheese

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    #25
    Namaste

    Thank you Senor Queso for expanding the scope of our focus on the planet we all share together. Awareness is the key. Eventually this tragedy will have an effect on everyone, everywhere. We should all ask ourselves what we can do right now wherever we are to make a difference--and keep asking until we have backed away from our damage long enough for nature to run it's course. WE all have damaged the earth for aeons, now it is time to begin acting in ways that help our planet to heal. It is a shame that our loved ones and families continue to die from the poison we create with our industrial process, and we still do not get that we have only ourselves to blame.
     

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