Hungary spill pollution eases, no risk to river

Environmental damage ruled out

Interior Minister Sandor Pinter told a news conference that the spill had not affected the drinking water supply so far and government spokeswoman Anna Nagy said the food chain was safe.

“Let’s not even consider the pollution that got into the Danube as real pollution now, as the material that got into the river has pH levels of below 9, which, considering the (large volume of) water, will dilute in a few kilometers,” Pinter said.

“...It will not be of an extent which would cause biological or environmental damage,” he added. Tibor Dobson, a spokesman for disaster crews, told Reuters that pH levels were at 8-8.2 in the Danube, which could be considered “normal,” down from a level of around 9 when the sludge reached the river on Thursday.

“These data give us hope... and we have not experienced any damage on the main Danube so far,” Dobson said. Crews have sought to dilute the alkaline content of Monday’s spill from a containment reservoir of Ajkai Timfoldgyar alumina plant.

Cause unknown

There were still no estimates of the financial damage wrought by the sludge — waste from bauxite refining that has a strong caustic effect — over an area of 1,920-2,400 acres. The disaster’s cause remained unknown.

While there is a good chance the spill’s impact on the Danube would be limited, western Hungarian villages that bore the brunt of the sludge torrent on Monday could suffer in the longer term, environmental group Greenpeace said.

It 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.

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