The red mud catastrophe

PhotographerSimon Moricz
PrizePress / Nature/Environmental
Entry Description

On the 4th of October, 2010, hundreds of thousands cubic meters of toxic, virulent red mud poured out from the containment pond of the Hungarian Aluminium Production and Trade Company Ltd. next to the city of Ajka in Hungary. Because of a dam break the spilling sludge of around 600-700 000 cubic meters (21-24 million cubic feet) inundated the lower sections of the villages of Kolontár, Devecser and Somlóvásárhely. Ten people were killed, and many hundreds injured because of the mud, which flooded the half of the village Kolontár and the two-third of Devecser, up to two meters high in some places. The heavily alkaline, virulent industrial waste was spread over around 40 square kilometres (15.5 square miles), causing inestimable ecological and economical damages. For 120 years the industry has been unable to deal with the by-product of the alumina production, the red mud. The main problem is the highly alkaline pH: it is ten times as strong as raw bleach.

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