The dam of an old mine broke over a length of 25 meters and set free the sludge, contaminated with lead and zinc. Parts of the sludge have spilled into the river Vaser. This river leads into the river Visau which is a tributary of the River Tisza - the river that was most badly hit in a cyanide spill just five weeks ago.
The bulk of the sludge is spread outside the tailing lagoon and has not yet spilled into the Vaser river. This could explain the relatively low concentrations of heavy metals in the river water so far measured by Romanian government experts.
"Further rain and melting snow could spill much more of the sludge into the river," said Gyorgy Gado, Director of conservation, WWF Hungary Programme, after a visit to the site today. "If more of the sludge gets into the river, the chances of revitalizing the Tisza and the whole region will receive another blow. The biggest need is therefore to erect an emergency dam to contain and secure the sludge."
Only five weeks ago, rivers in Romania and Hungary were hit by a spill of 100'000 m3 of toxic mining water containing cyanide. In Hungary, 200 tonnes of dead fish had to be taken from the river Tisza.
"This is one more warning signal of potential time bombs that are waiting to go off all over Europe," said Phil Weller, Director of the WWF Danube-Carpathian Programme. "The European mining industries have to act immediately to clean up this threat. And all governments and the EU have to guarantee fast action."