Hazardous waste deposited in red sludge reservoirs

„We are replacing an existing risk by another” – claimed a staff member of Tatai Környezetvédelmi Zrt. (TKV Zrt.) 15 years ago in a lecture to university students about  a technology used in „fixing” one of Hungary ’s alumina production waste sludge reservoirs (at Almásfüzitő) according to a document  published by Atlatszo.hu. The lecturer added at the time: ” The only way to sort out this area would be to remove the whole lot of 11 000 t waste from here.” The document – the script of the lecture –  prove that under the excuse of „reducing the damages” these containers get infected by hazardous waste and even heavy metals dumped by specialist companies.  The consequences are unpredictable, the profit can be huge.

In Hungary some alumina production waste sludge reservoirs – similar to the ones causing a catastophe in Kolontar in October 2010 – have been or are being used for dumping other types of hazardous materials since the production of alumina  stopped. Hungarian aluminium factories were privatized after 1990 at a conveniently low price. In exchange the buyers had to take over the reduction of previously caused environmental damages.  One of these factories – in Almásfüzitő, a town by the river Danube in the North West of Hungary – has long stopped producing Alumina, and it has been using its waste sludge reservoirs for deposing hazardous waste produced elsewhere.

The reservoirs by the Almásfüzitő plant were built right by the river Danube. There are no serious concerns about these containers potentially causing a similar destruction to the one in Kolontár because these ones mostly store solidified red sludge. Yet on the surface of these materials dust may be formed  and  groundwater or rain and snow may wash the contents of the reservoirs into the river.  Tatai Környezetvédelmi Zrt. (TKV Zrt.) is currenty working on covering the containers to prevent  dust formation, unfortunately this is being done – according to the company’s own definition –  with some ”industrial compost”(a mixtore of dangerous and non-hazardous waste materials). This „recultivation” is considered to be a rather unusual technology and it may lead to the cost–efficient but  potentially dangerous dumping of further hazardous waste materials.

The lecture published by Atlatszo.hu had already been referred to by two articles in Magyar Nemzet daily in 2000 about how and why  TKV was fined by the regional environmental authority for storing hazardous waste. Since then Magyar Nemzet daily has not dealt with  this topic, and the TKV group has become a regular advertiser at Magyar Nemzet. Until 2010 TKV Zrt. ’s majority owner was an offshore company, Wyatte Holdings Overseas Limited. Today its owned by László Fülöp, the CEO of  the company.

Since the publication of the transcript of the 1996 lecture  TKV Zrt. has contacted us to claim – among other things – that  the above mentioned documents have been manipulated and that the red sludge reservoirs at Almásfüzitő are not at all dangerous to the environment. Yet a  study (with a summary in English) published in 2004 by the Geographical Institute of the  Hungarian Academy of Sciences supports the facts of the document we published.