Toxic sludges in Central Europe
by Csaba Toth
For CSU Fresno Hydrology (EES117) class
09/27/2012
Thanks for materials to W...
Two sludges
1. Cyanide spill in January 30, 2000
– “the worst environmental disaster in Europe since
the Chernobyl disaste...
Europe
East Central Europe
Carpathian/Pannonian Basin
Similarities with Central Valley: great plains, and
air conditions (air stuck in basin, fog som...
Tisza River
• Tisza or Tisa is one of the main rivers of
Central Europe
Tisza River
• Drains an area of about 60,266 sq mi
• Length of 600 mi
• Biggest catchment and length of any of Danube
trib...
Danube River
• Europe's second longest river after the Volga
Danube River
• Originates from Germany, Black Forest
• Drains an area of about 315,445 sq mi
• Mean discharge of 229,545 f...
Danube River
• Along its course, it is a source of drinking water
for about 20 million people
• Passing through four Centr...
1. Cyanide spill - January 30, 2000
• The spill has been called the worst environmental
disaster in Europe since the Chern...
1. Cyanide spill - January 30, 2000
Gold mining
• Gold mining company Aurul, a joint-venture of
the Australian company Esmeralda Exploration
and the Romanian ...
The spill itself
• 100,000 cubic meters of cyanide-contaminated
water (containing an estimated 100 tons of
cyanides) spill...
Aftermath
• Esmeralda Exploration blamed excessive snowfall for the dam
failure (srsly?)
• "The Tisza has been killed. Not...
More reactions
• A spokesman for the company later claimed that media
reports from Hungary and Serbia are politically
moti...
More reactions
• It’s also interesting to note that
Romania ate its own dog food:
the Tisza flows into the
Danube, and the...
Aftermath – there you go
• Five weeks later, a spill of contaminated waters (this
time with heavy metals) hit the region.[...
Aftermath
• While Romania and the Australian gold mining
company denied everything and didn’t show
too much sorrow about t...
2. Red mud sludge, 4 October 2010
• Locations. Kolontár, Hungary
Red mud sludge
• NASA's Earth Observing-1 satellite
Aluminium production from bauxite
• waste product of the Bayer process, which refines
bauxite into a form of aluminium oxi...
The spill
• dam of reservoir no. 10 collapsed
• freeing approximately 35 million cubic feet of
liquid waste from red mud l...
Danger
• Immediate: extremely basic, with a pH value
of 13 (remember NaOH)
• 80–90 people had been taken to hospital
• sev...
Danger
• Extreme basic pH caustic effects on the skin is very
different, than an extreme acidic effect: you don’t feel
the...
Long Term Danger
• Once the sludge dries, various toxic
compounds are picked up by the wind
– This can cause coughing, lun...
Aftermath
• The CEOs of the bauxit mining company were detractive
towards the effect of the sludge. (The CEO were standing...
Bottom line notes
• Bauxite contains lower percentage of aluminum
than an aluminum ore, extraction requires more
effort (h...
Bottom line notes
• Hungary is famous for its baths, there are
thousands of thermal springs all across the
country, good f...
Aftermath
• The mining company stated that they performed
all mandatory check annually and regularly on
the dam
• Many loc...
Media/press
• http://www.boston.com/bigpicture/2010/10/
a_flood_of_toxic_sludge.html
• http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown...
Future after red mud catastrophe?
• Red mud cleanup seems to be successful
• But people lost their homes and they won’t
re...
Future after cyanide spills?
• Bigger project than ever before planned: Gold
mining at Verespatak
• Means bigger than ever...
Comparison
• The red mud sludge looked really nasty, that’s
why it hit the news
• The cyanide spill was a rally scary invi...
Summary
• Tremendous damage because of negligence
and money hunger
• The responsible parties deny allegations, don’t
learn...
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Toxic Sludges in Central Europe

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Slideshow for a Hydrology class about two main horrible toxic sludge spill (plus some extra) which affected Central Europe, Eastern Europe, Danube, Tisza, Tisa

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Toxic Sludges in Central Europe

  1. 1. Toxic sludges in Central Europe by Csaba Toth For CSU Fresno Hydrology (EES117) class 09/27/2012 Thanks for materials to Wikipedia
  2. 2. Two sludges 1. Cyanide spill in January 30, 2000 – “the worst environmental disaster in Europe since the Chernobyl disaster” 2. Red mud toxic sludge in 4 October 2010
  3. 3. Europe
  4. 4. East Central Europe
  5. 5. Carpathian/Pannonian Basin Similarities with Central Valley: great plains, and air conditions (air stuck in basin, fog somtimes)
  6. 6. Tisza River • Tisza or Tisa is one of the main rivers of Central Europe
  7. 7. Tisza River • Drains an area of about 60,266 sq mi • Length of 600 mi • Biggest catchment and length of any of Danube tributaries • Mean annual discharge of 28,000 cu ft/s • Its contribution to the Danube's total runoff is about 13% • Attila the Hun is said to have been buried under a diverted section of the river Tisza
  8. 8. Danube River • Europe's second longest river after the Volga
  9. 9. Danube River • Originates from Germany, Black Forest • Drains an area of about 315,445 sq mi • Mean discharge of 229,545 ft3/s (at Budapest: 82,989 ft3/s, Mississippi: 593,000 ft3/s) • Once a long-standing frontier of the Roman Empire • Passes through or touches the borders of ten countries: Romania (29.0% of basin area), Hungary (11.6%), Serbia (10.2%), Austria (10.0%), Germany (7.0%), Bulgaria (5.9%), Slovakia (5.9%), Croatia (4.4%), Ukraine (3.8%), and Moldova (1.6%)
  10. 10. Danube River • Along its course, it is a source of drinking water for about 20 million people • Passing through four Central European capitals before emptying into the Black Sea via the Danube Delta in Romania and Ukraine 1. Vienna – capital of Austria 2. Bratislava – capital of Slovakia 3. Budapest – capital of Hungary 4. Belgrade – capital of Serbia • The delta’s approximate surface is 1603 mile², it is a UNESCO heritage
  11. 11. 1. Cyanide spill - January 30, 2000 • The spill has been called the worst environmental disaster in Europe since the Chernobyl disaster • Originating location: Nagybánya (Baia Mare in Romanian), 600 kilometers from Bucharest, the capital of Romania, 70 kilometers from the border with Hungary and 50 kilometers from the border with Ukraine • Time: January 30, 2000, night • Affected the Tisza and then the Danube
  12. 12. 1. Cyanide spill - January 30, 2000
  13. 13. Gold mining • Gold mining company Aurul, a joint-venture of the Australian company Esmeralda Exploration and the Romanian government • Cleaning up byproduct of gold mining, the toxic tailings, Aurul extracted remaining gold from it via gold cyanidation • The company then shipped its waste product to a dam (contains a lot of cyanide, also has some heavy metals and other yummy stuff)
  14. 14. The spill itself • 100,000 cubic meters of cyanide-contaminated water (containing an estimated 100 tons of cyanides) spilled • Into the Someş river, then Tisza, Danube • Cyanide concentrations of over 700 times the permitted levels • More than 1,400 tons of fish, numerous eagles, storks and otters all died • In addition to cyanide, heavy metals were also washed into the river and they have a long-lasting negative impact on the environment
  15. 15. Aftermath • Esmeralda Exploration blamed excessive snowfall for the dam failure (srsly?) • "The Tisza has been killed. Not even bacteria have survived" - Serbia's Environment minister Branislav Blazic – "This is a total catastrophe." • After the cyanide entered the Danube, the large volume of the river's water diluted the cyanide, but in some sections it still remained as high as 20 to 50 times the allowed concentration • Brett Montgomery, the chairman of the mine operator, Esmeralda, denied responsibility, claiming that the damage of the spill has been "grossly exaggerated" and that the fish died in such numbers because of lack of oxygen due to the freezing of the river. (yeah, right!)
  16. 16. More reactions • A spokesman for the company later claimed that media reports from Hungary and Serbia are politically motivated and the fish were killed by spills from industrial plants along the Tisza, due to the dynamite explosions used to break the ice locks on the river or simply due to the raw sewage pumped into the river. – My two cents on this as a flat water kayaker on the Danube for 20 years: waste water treatment significantly improved in Hungary over the years, especially after the system change. The various industry plants which contaminated the water got closed down because of economic reasons.
  17. 17. More reactions • It’s also interesting to note that Romania ate its own dog food: the Tisza flows into the Danube, and the Danube flows back to they! Rather deny allegations then admit a fault – congrats! • The Hungarian government called the storing of cyanide next to a river madness and argued that the weather was not unprecedented. – with a little digging we can see if this is right
  18. 18. Aftermath – there you go • Five weeks later, a spill of contaminated waters (this time with heavy metals) hit the region.[3] A dyke burst in Baia Borş, Maramureş County and 20,000 cubic meters of zinc, lead and copper-contaminated water made its way into the Tisza. • A year later, another cyanide spill occurred in Romania, this time being a deliberate emptying of cyanide solutions into the Siret River. • Two years after the spill, the ecosystem began to recover, but it was still far from its initial state, as the fishermen of Hungary claim that their catches are only at a fifth of their original levels.
  19. 19. Aftermath • While Romania and the Australian gold mining company denied everything and didn’t show too much sorrow about the incident, Australian Greenpeace activists communicated their deep sorrow about the tragedy and felt ashamed in the name of the Romanian government and the gold mining company.
  20. 20. 2. Red mud sludge, 4 October 2010 • Locations. Kolontár, Hungary
  21. 21. Red mud sludge • NASA's Earth Observing-1 satellite
  22. 22. Aluminium production from bauxite • waste product of the Bayer process, which refines bauxite into a form of aluminium oxide called alumina • The byproduct mud primarily contains non- aluminium compounds present in the bauxite ore and left as residues after its refining along with sodium hydroxide used to dissolve aluminium oxide – notice NaOH, extreme pH! • red mud does not contain “very high” levels of heavy metals, although still about seven times the levels in normal soil • Very slightly radioactive
  23. 23. The spill • dam of reservoir no. 10 collapsed • freeing approximately 35 million cubic feet of liquid waste from red mud lakes • The mud was released as a 1–2 m (3–7 ft) tall wave, flooding several nearby localities • At least nine people died, and 122 people were injured • About 15 sq mi of land were initially affected
  24. 24. Danger • Immediate: extremely basic, with a pH value of 13 (remember NaOH) • 80–90 people had been taken to hospital • severe chemical burns to human and animals and killing specimens in the rivers and in the contaminated soils • levels of chromium 660 mg/kg, arsenic 110 mg/kg and mercury 1.2 mg/kg.
  25. 25. Danger • Extreme basic pH caustic effects on the skin is very different, than an extreme acidic effect: you don’t feel the damage right away like with an acid, real damage kicks in only with a large delay (but non-reversible). • Hungarian news showed footages as catastrophe response teams were pouring industrial citric acid and vinegar into the affected small rivers to counteract the extreme pH of NaOH • The radioactivity of the sludge is negligible (comparable to the background radiation), doesn’t have real impact
  26. 26. Long Term Danger • Once the sludge dries, various toxic compounds are picked up by the wind – This can cause coughing, lung and respiratory irritation – Trigger asthma, make asthma worse – Worse for children and elderly people • Personal suspicion (not proven): these dams were used to store other toxic waste products than just the bauxite mining
  27. 27. Aftermath • The CEOs of the bauxit mining company were detractive towards the effect of the sludge. (The CEO were standing on the stairs at the sludge dam, and stated that “It’s harmless”. The governmental representative replied: “Then jump in, and swim in it!”) • The CEOs were cited to a lawsuit • The CEOs had power during the communist era and could get hold and save that governmental industry into their own personal wealth only for pennies (same happened with almost every big industry and valuable asset after the system change) • These days the lawsuit seems to not have any result, still going on but money can by very good defense
  28. 28. Bottom line notes • Bauxite contains lower percentage of aluminum than an aluminum ore, extraction requires more effort (hence the toxic dam) • But Hungarian bauxit contained unusually high percentage of titanium! • Unfortunately during the communist era that very valuable titanium was just simply taken away by the soviets (for free, since Hungary was a “friend” and communist “brother”), and most probably used for military industry
  29. 29. Bottom line notes • Hungary is famous for its baths, there are thousands of thermal springs all across the country, good for treating various health issues • Heavy industry mining impacted the yield of those spring throughout the years • Now there’s no more mining and Hungary is just blessed with the enormous amount of toxic waste – sitting and waiting to spill one day (there are many more container pools like the one which spilled) • Titanium is gone too as I mentioned
  30. 30. Aftermath • The mining company stated that they performed all mandatory check annually and regularly on the dam • Many local people stated that it was common knowledge that the dams were leaking • The disaster happened after an unusually rainy period, seemingly the dam wall cracked and slipped • (Some conspiracy theorists say it was caused by a bomb)
  31. 31. Media/press • http://www.boston.com/bigpicture/2010/10/ a_flood_of_toxic_sludge.html • http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/201 0/10/toxic-sludge-from-hungary-spill-coats- villages-threatens-danube.html
  32. 32. Future after red mud catastrophe? • Red mud cleanup seems to be successful • But people lost their homes and they won’t return any more to the disaster area • The leaders of the • USA has dry technology, not dangerous in terms of potential spills, but more costly (you have to neutralize the NaOH and have to prevent the disperse of the dried sludge dust, which can cause irritation)
  33. 33. Future after cyanide spills? • Bigger project than ever before planned: Gold mining at Verespatak • Means bigger than ever before cyanide dam • The campaign against the gold mining at Roșia Montană was one of the largest campaigns over a non-political cause in the last 20 years in Romania. A plethora of organizations spoke out against the project, from Greenpeace to the Romanian Academy. Nevertheless, in late 2009, the Romanian government announced it made starting the project a priority. – congratulations!
  34. 34. Comparison • The red mud sludge looked really nasty, that’s why it hit the news • The cyanide spill was a rally scary invisible and silent mass murderer • Although people died as a result of the red mud incident, it affected smaller area than the cyanide spill, easier to remediate • There was an international lawsuit about the cyanide spill, but we only won some pennies basically
  35. 35. Summary • Tremendous damage because of negligence and money hunger • The responsible parties deny allegations, don’t learn • Money compensation (which can be used for remediation) is often negligible, laughable

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