ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
A rescue team searches for missing bodies possibly washed away by flooding toxic mud near the village of Kolontar, Hungary. AP photo
The toxic sludge coursing through the Danube River will be diluted to safe levels by the time it reaches the Black Sea, experts said Friday, though they cautioned future spills might not be so easily mitigated.
“An effect on Turkey is very unlikely; the toxins that reached the Danube are not in such a large concentration that they are likely to have an impact on the Black Sea,” Orieta Hulea, head of the environmental group WWF’s Danube/freshwater program, told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review. She added that the sludge would be further diluted by the water flow from large tributaries entering the river upstream of the Black Sea.
Up to 700,000 cubic meters of toxic red sludge burst out of a Hungarian factory’s reservoir Monday, an environmental disaster unprecedented in the Eastern European country. The threat posed by the spill, however, had diminished by the time it hit the Danube, Europe’s second-largest river, on Thursday.
“Turkey is safe; they have already managed to localize the pollution and reduce the pH level from about 12 to around 10, which is good,” Mihaela Popovici, a pollution expert with the International Commission for the Protection of the Danube River, told the Daily News. She predicted acidity levels in the waterway would be down to an allowable limit of 8 or 8.5 by the time the sludge reaches Turkey.
But with the Danube regularly emptying pollution from 11 different countries into the Black Sea – including an annual 53,000 tons of oil and 30 percent of the total nutrient pollution in the sea – a spill closer to Turkey might be a different story, experts warned.
Industrial sites in many countries along the Danube’s banks, including Romania and Bulgaria, store large quantities of liquid waste in dangerous proximity to the river, WWF said in a statement Thursday.
“These companies, which do not comply with the environment regulations, pose a high danger to people in the region,” Hulea told the Daily News. “This type of accident does not have to happen.”