Thursday, October 21, 2010
Kolontar toxic red sludge : other ex-Soviet dams are waiting their turn to pollute...
The disastrous breach of the alumina dam at Kolontar, Hungary, prompted me to request a guest post from Paul Glendell, and old friend and colleague from the days of the Campaign Against Sea Dumping, also a noted environmental photographer. Paul writes:
Having travelled around central Europe during the early 1990s, just after the various revolutions, the recent accident in Hungary when a dam wall holding back toxic waste collapsed came as no great surprise to me.
In Slovakia I photographed several similar, although much smaller toxic lakes. In the east of Slovakia I visited a waste lake from mercury production. A few miles further west in Krompachy a blue cracked semi solid waste lake from copper smelting with the surrounding land inhabited by Roma. Near Slovakia’s second city Banska Bystrica, below the beautiful ‘folk’ village of Spania Dolina I walked across the solid white waste from what I was told was mixed mineral extraction nearby. This too was held back in a deep valley by a dam. Further up from the dam the solid white waste became a clear liquid lake. Needless to say there was no evidence of life in the ‘water’.
But by far the biggest waste ‘dump’ I visited was at Ziar Nad Hronom – at what I was informed is / was europe’s largest Aluminium factory, the same as the Hungarian disaster. The mountains of waste ‘hid’ a lake of almost luminous green liquid that a factory worker told me was highly alkaline. The liquid was slowly seeping into the surrounding fields. This factory has in fact expanded since 1992 when I visited it but what has happened to decades of industrial waste from a virtually unregulated communist past I have no idea.
I fear there are more accidents to come. I have not seen such waste dumps in the other eastern European countries but I am sure they are there. Slovakia and Hungary are certainly not unique in having this legacy.
I must end however by saying that, as so few western Europeans visit Slovakia I wouldn’t want to give the impression that the country is a mass of polluted wasteland. Far from it, it contains some of the most beautiful unpolluted countryside, that is the nearest to wilderness you will find in Europe.
Slovakia Waste Lakes