Resolution accepted at the 13th EGP Council, Tallinn, Estonia, October 8-10, 2010
The alkali sludge has now reached the Danube itself. NGOs have warned that the spill also contains levels of arsenic and mercury some 25 times higher than officially permitted, posing a long-term risk to the ecosystem and drinkable water.
The European Green Party (EGP) expresses grave concerns over the ecological disaster caused by toxic red sludge spilling from an alumina plant in Hungary, and demands immediate action by both the Hungarian Government and the European Union. The death toll from the disaster rose to seven on Friday and three people are still missing after the reservoir at an alumina plant burst in Ajka, western Hungary on Monday. Over 120 people have suffered severe toxic burns. Close to one million cubic meters of sludge is estimated to have flooded the surrounding villages, destroying homes and pouring into rivers which feed the Danube. The alkali sludge has now reached the Danube itself. NGOs have warned that the spill also contains levels of arsenic and mercury some 25 times higher than officially permitted, posing a long-term risk to the ecosystem and drinkable water.
The EGP is appalled that such catastrophic disasters with long-term effects have to happen before national governments and the EU start paying attention to environmental time-bombs.
While appreciating the current efforts by Hungarian authorities, the European Green Party is calling the Hungarian government to:
-continue the rehabilitation of the area and make sure that the upper layer of the soil is replaced as soon as possible. It is feared that the sludge that has been kept wet by recent rains will soon dry and create a toxic dust containing heavy metals and other hazardous components;
-urgently ask the EU for additional assistance if it finds its current resources insufficient for the rehabilitation efforts;
-immediately begin examining the condition of all alumina reservoirs in Hungary and prepare or revise their emergency plans for such occasions. The cost of this should be covered by the owners of the alumina plants;
-launch an overall analysis of all components in surrounding rivers and the Danube. If it is confirmed that there are high levels of arsenic and mercury, immediate emergency steps must be taken.
-to fulfill demands to make public the privatisation contract of MAL Rt. - which operates the alumina plant - in order to find out what type of security and other rules aimed at preventing such incidents exist.
The EGP is calling the EU to:
-Overhaul the 2006 Mining waste Directive and the 1996 Seveso II Directive on the control of major accidents of operations of companies producing hazardous waste in the European Union and the Environmental Liability Directive to close its loopholes and minimise its risks.
-send a task force to Hungary to assist examining the environmental damage and the causes of the incident, propose methods of prevention, and share experience and best practices in similar disastrous incidents. A similar task force was sent in the case of the gold processing plant disaster of Baia Mare in Romania in 2000, but to make sure this time that the recommendations of the task force are implemented;
-add red sludge to the EU’s list of hazardous waste due to its high ph level (13-13.5);
-create a European security fund which finances the rehabilitation processes of such disasters. The fund should be paid by companies producing hazardous waste.
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