|How does the sludge get produced and how could it escape?
When aluminium is extracted from bauxite via the so-called Bayer process, red sludge forms as a by-product. The sludge is normally kept in large reservoirs where its fluid and solid components separate into water and mud.
What caused the accident is yet unclear, but it is likely that heavy rain has caused the dam containing the reservoir to break.
It is also possible that the reservoir was just not large or strong enough to hold the sludge it was filled with. What is the chemical composition of the sludge?
It contains mainly fluoride, sulphate and aluminate, but also chrome, nickel, manganese and heavy metals such as lead. Its arsenic concentration is at least a hundred times above the allowed threshold for drinking water.
185 million gallon spill reaching danube
KOLONTAR, Hungary — New Hungarian government figures on the red sludge flood show that the volume of toxic muck that escaped from a burst reservoir was almost as high as the blown-out BP oil well spewed into the Gulf of Mexico.
BUDAPEST (Dow Jones)--The toxic mud that burst out from a Hungarian aluminum plant Monday contains more dangerous elements than the government had said earlier, environmental organization Greenpeace said Friday.
Many of us have come to view the Associated Press as a reincarnation of PRAVDA during the heyday of the Soviet Union. If you followed many of the AP headlines during the BP Oil Spill, like this one below, you will see a similar pattern of serious disinformation and cover-up for their corporate sponsors. They really do need to be called out from now on for this well-established pattern of disseminating patently false information.
A week after around one million cubic metres of red sludge escaped from a Hungarian alumina factory, an analysis commissioned by the environmental group Greenpeace has revealed that more than 50 tonnes of arsenic may have been released as a result of the spill.
MetalMiner also has a breakdown of the composition of a similar sludge from a Turkish plant*. Mostly it is iron oxide—hence the red color—aluminum oxide, and silica, but, despite its official nontoxic status, there are plenty of less pleasant chemicals in there:
More disturbingly the report goes on to say the waste can contain thorium and uranium and confirms it can be highly caustic. The majority of the constituents are relatively harmless, iron oxide, aluminum oxide, silica and sodium, titanium and calcium oxides. It’s the minor constituents and caustic ph of this sludge that could prove to be the most dangerous contaminants.
NASA today released the first satellite images of the Hungary toxic sludge flood.