Hungary's Toxic Sludge Spill Viewed From Space

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With workers racing to build emergency dams in an effort to prevent a second catastrophe, new satellite imagery from NASA shows the horrifying scale of the toxic sludge spill that has killed eight and inundated three villages in Hungary.


The images were taken on October 9 by the Advanced Land Imager on NASA's Earth Observing-1 satellite:

The alumina plant appears along the right edge of both images, and incorporates both bright blue and brick red reservoirs. The breach of the retaining wall is apparent in the close-up view. Sludge cut a channel through the northwest corner of the waste reservoir and spread onto nearby fields.

The sludge forms a red-orange streak running west from the plant. The wide-area view shows the spill thinning but remaining discernible for several kilometers to the west. The New York Times reported that the stream nearest the plant empties into larger rivers. The BBC reported that authorities were pouring plaster into the Marcal River in hopes of preventing the sludge from reaching the Danube River.


The sludge did in fact reach the Danube last Thursday, though recent pH tests have indicated that the it may not be in great enough amounts to significantly pollute the river, which is Europe's second largest. Still, with a second spill threatening and with the dust from the dried sludge deemed potentially hazardous, there's a lot of clean up left to be done. [NASA and CNN]