After weeks of heavy rain, a retaining dam at an aluminum ore processing plant in Ajka, Hungary collapsed on Monday. This released a flood of red toxic sludge containing lead, cadmuim, chromium, arsenic and other hazardous substances. This toxic sludge has swept through several villages. At least seven dead bodies have been found linked to the sludge as of Friday.
Clean-up crews are still working to clear out the dark red sludge from neighboring villages, days after the spill.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban declared a state of emergency in three countries earlier this week, but seems to be downplaying the disaster by insisting that there is little risk of pollution running into the Danube, Europe's second-longest river. Rescue teams have been dropping acid and clay into the river to neutralize the alkaline effects of the toxic sludge, thus preventing the toxins from traveling down the Danube, which is already somewhat polluted from the affected smaller rivers that pour into it. Dead fish have been spotted in the river, but environmental officials say the water quality samples were only slightly higher than normal and does not pose a hazard to the environment.
But, not everyone is convinced that the situation is under control. Some are afraid that increased levels of mercury could be absorbed into the fish and then enter the food chain. Some officials are even saying that toxins from the drying sludge could spread through the air.
The wildlife protection group WWF is warning of a "string of other disasters waiting to happen" along the Danube.
In the wake of our own toxic oil spill in the U.S., we pray for everyone's safety abroad.