Sludge spill firm ordered to stop dust piling
The local mining authority of Veszprem, western Hungary, has ordered local alumina plant Mal to put a stop to dust accumulating and spreading from its red sludge reservoirs, Zoltan Kaldi, an official from the authority, told MTI on Monday.
Mal has to act within five days of the decision issued by the authority on Monday, Kaldi said.
Mal is the owner of sludge reservoirs near Ajka, one of which had burst and caused an environmental disaster two years ago. On October 4, 2010, toxic red sludge - a by-product of alumina - flooded residential areas in Kolontar, Devecser, and Somlovasarhely. Parliament decreed in March that alumina factory Mal was responsible for the spill which killed ten people and destroyed hundreds of homes.
Kaldi said that measurements taken on May 16 and 17 this year showed large dust concentration in the area, well above the permissible levels. The authority had asked Mal earlier to cover the reservoirs in order to prevent dust accumulation. The latest compliance order was necessary in order to put an immediate stop to events "seriously damaging the living standards of local residents," Kaldi said. He added that if Mal fails to comply, a fine will be imposed or the preventive measures will be taken at the company’s expense.
He said that a 40-50 centimetre wide soil cover should be placed on the reservoirs to prevent wind from spreading the toxic dust in the area.
Attila Nagy, head of the laboratory of the regional environmental authority, told MTI on Friday that a concentration of 560 microgrammes per cubic metres of air was measured on average over 24 hours near the reservoir last Thursday. The permissible exposure limits to protect locals from health effects is 50 microgrammes per cubic metres on any day. He added that in peak times the concentration can reach thousands of microgrammes per cubic metre. An exposure at that level can cause serious damage to health even in the short term.
Greenpeace expert Gergely Simon told MTI earlier that the reservoir should be watered to slow down dust accumulation. He added that the particles are especially dangerous for those suffering from asthma or respiratory diseases, as well as children, the elderly and pregnant women and that a testing of local residents is required.