Warnings over long-term effects of Danube slick

The River Danube may have avoided immediate environmental disaster, but Hungary's massive spill of red sludge could cause more long-term damage than previously thought, it was claimed yesterday.

The crimson tide of aluminium-plant waste reached the Danube on Thursday, but Hungarian ministers and officials were still insisting it did not present a major problem for Europe's second-longest river. Hungary's Interior Minister, Sandor Pinter, said the spill had not affected the drinking water supply so far and government spokeswoman Anna Nagy said the food chain was safe. Despite initial fears, Mr Pinter said that the pollution would be so diluted by the volume of water in the river that nations downstream, such as Serbia and Romania, would not be affected. "It will not be of an extent which would cause biological or environmental damage," he said.

Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban said the threat to the Danube had been eliminated, and the International Commission for the Protection of the Danube, a Vienna-based group that monitors the river and its tributaries, said that the consequences "do not seem to be that dramatic".

However, assurances from the Hungarian Academy of Sciences which claimed that the sludge, which burst out of a containment reservoir near the village of Kolontar, did not contain harmful heavy metals were contradicted by Greenpeace. It said that laboratory tests showed high concentrations of heavy metals in the sludge which risked causing pervasive and lasting environmental damage in the Kolontar area.

Red sludge samples taken on Tuesday, a day after the spill, contained "surprisingly high" levels of arsenic and mercury, Greenpeace said. The campaigning group said its analysis suggested that roughly 50 tonnes of arsenic, 300 tonnes of chrome and half a tonne of mercury were unleashed by the spill. The detected arsenic concentration was twice the amount normally found in so-called red mud, a waste product in aluminum production. Analysis of water in a canal near the spill also found arsenic levels 25 times the limit for drinking water, Greenpeace said.

The warnings conflicted with the view of the prestigious academy, which reiterated yesterday that the red sludge remained hazardous due to its caustic alkalinity but its heavy metal concentrations were not considered dangerous for the environment.

Greenpeace said it had taken test samples from sludge in Kolontar, located closest to the burst reservoir of the alumina plant, showing that data taken by government health and science agencies had underestimated the ecological dangers unleashed. The group said its conclusion was supported by findings of the Federal Environmental Institute in Vienna and the Balint Analytical Institute in Budapest.

Zsolt Szegfalvi, director of Greenpeace Hungary, said arsenic, mercury and chromium levels were especially high at Kolontar. "This contamination poses a long-term risk to both the water base and the ecosystem," a Greenpeace statement said.

More than 150 people were injured in the disaster, with inhabitants suffering from burns and eye ailments caused by the sludge's caustic elements, while the death toll rose to seven yesterday, when rescue services found two more bodies near Devecser, a town in western Hungary inundated Monday by the sludge. Officials said they were probably residents missing from nearby Kolontar.

News
John Travolta is a qualified airline captain and employed the pilot with his company, Alto
people'That was the lowest I’d ever felt'
Life and Style
healthIt isn’t greasy. It doesn’t smell. And moreover, it costs nothing
Sport
Jonas Gutierrez (r) competes with Yaya Toure (l)
football

Newcastle winger is in Argentina having chemotherapy

Arts and Entertainment
Blossoming love: Colin Firth as Stanley and Emma Stone as Sophie, in 'Magic in the Moonlight'
film

Actors together in Magic in the Moonlight: Woody Allen's 1920s romance

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
peopleThe Times of India said actress should treat it as a 'compliment'
News
news

Watch this commuter wage a one-man war against the Circle Line
News
We are phenomenally good at recognising faces; the study showed that humans have been selected to be unique and easily recognisable
science

Human faces unique 'because we don't recognise each other by smell'

Arts and Entertainment
You've been framed: Henri Matisse's colourful cut-outs at Tate Modern
artWhat makes a smash-hit art show?
Property
Home body: Badger stays safe indoors
lifeShould we feel guilty about keeping cats inside?
News
A male driver reverses his Vauxhall Astra from a tow truck
news

Man's attempt to avoid being impounded heavily criticised

Arts and Entertainment
US pop diva Jennifer Lopez sang “Happy Birthday” to Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, president of Turkmenistan
musicCorporate gigs become key source of musicians' income
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig believed to be donning skis as 007 for first time
Student
The Guildhall School of Music and Drama is to offer a BA degree in Performance and Creative Enterprise
student

Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum
theatre

Returning to the stage after 20 years makes actress feel 'nauseous'

Arts and Entertainment
Pulp-fiction lover: Jarvis Cocker
booksJarvis Cocker on Richard Brautigan
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke and Pharell Williams in the video of the song, which has been accused of justifying rape
music...and he had 'almost no part' in writing it
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

March On Cancer™ - Local Marketing and Promotions Volunteer

This is an unpaid voluntary role.: Cancer Research UK: We need motivational vo...

SEN Coordinator + Teacher

£1 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Job Purpose To work closely with the he...

Maths Teacher - Evening session

Negotiable: Randstad Education Birmingham: I am looking for a qualified experi...

Teaching Assistants

£50 - £85 per day: Randstad Education Preston: Rapidly developing and growing ...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week