EU tackling toxic sludge
EU CP experts returned home. The findings of the EU CP Team were presented to Hungarian authorities, which included short and longer-term suggestions to further enhance the remedial and recovery plan of the Hungarian government. A possible follow-up expert mission may take place in 2011.
On Monday 18 October 2010, the European Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response, Ms Kristalina Georgieva travelled to Hungary for meetings that had been planned well in advance of the accident. She used the opportunity to also visit the site of the disaster, accompanied by Ms Annemie Turtelboom, Belgian Minister of Interior.
According to Hungarian authorities the total number of deceased persons amounts to 9 and 250 received medical care. The resettlement of the population to Kolontár started on the 15th of October. Decontamination and cleaning up activities are continuing, involving 1401 persons and 246 vehicles. The Hungarian emergency detection team is continuously carrying out monitoring along the dyke of the red mud reservoir. The National Public Health is monitoring the quality of drinking water in the affected areas.
The MIC would like to thank all the Participating States that have offered experts and assistance in reply to this emergency.
Hungary activates the EU Civil Protection Mechanism and requests technical expertise to combat mud pollution
In the evening of 7 October 2010, Hungary activated the EU Civil Protection Mechanism for urgent international assistance in response to the pollution caused by the breakdown of a sludge depository in the city of Ajka. The Hungarian authorities have identified an immediate need for experts with strong field experience in handling toxic sludge, decontamination and mitigation of environmental damage.
A team of 5 experts was selected and arrived on 11 October. The experts had been accompanied by a liaison officer who was deployed by the civil protection unit in ECHO (MIC, Monitoring and Information Centre) on Saturday (9 October).
The experts cover 3 main fields of expertise: dam and water management, eco-toxicology, decontamination of industrial sites. Their tasks were:
Contribute to the assessment of the impacts of the alkali sludge on the environment, in particular on agricultural land, water - including underground waters, flora and fauna;
Advise on the possibilities of prevention, mitigation and reduction of negative environmental impacts caused by alkali sludge;
Consult on the optimal solution for the decontamination of sludge in urban and agricultural areas;
Assess further needs/studies, anticipate risks and suggest solutions with regard to the rehabilitation of nature, the agricultural and urban land affected.
The estimated total affected area is between 800-1016 hectares. Rescue operations are ongoing and involve 1166 civil protection staff and 186 vehicles. 8 persons have been killed, one is still missing.
Authorities are concerned about a large section of the northern dam of the sludge reservoir which is showing signs of ruptures. As this may mean the risk of another possible spill out, the Hungarian Government has taken measures to construct dikes to prevent any theoretical negative scenario. The construction of the rock-filled dikes is on-going. The dam reinforcement has been finalized along its entire 1050 meter length. Inhabitants of the nearest village, Kolontar, have been evacuated.
Large-scale recovery work is underway to restore the railway system, to remove the still remaining red sludge and to neutralize it with gypsum.
After five days the European Civil Protection team experts returned home on 16 October and the MIC liaison officer have returned home on 19 October.
On 18th October Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva (Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response) visited Hungary. She met with the Hungarian authorities and visited the site of the accident together with the Belgian Minister of Interior.
The Monitoring and Information Centre (MIC) from DG ECHO coordinates and facilitates the assistance sent from European Participating States to the stricken country through the civil protection mechanism. However, DG ECHO does not act as an intermediary for commercial queries on the present emergency in Hungary. Any commercial offers for assistance should be addressed to the Hungarian authorities. Information on the "Redsludge" emergency is available on the official website of the Hungarian Government: http://redsludge.bm.hu/