This Month’s Sign of the Apocalypse

Blood Red Sludge

Posted by Diana Newby on Sunday, October 10, 2010 11:55 pm

After discovering the latest omen of the world’s coming demise, the Clog encourages Berkeley students to put down their books and enjoy their short-lived time on Earth.

Hungary’s major national disaster was by far the most disturbing thing to register on our radar over the last few days. If you’re not in the know, here’s what’s up: a week ago tomorrow, a reservoir filled with poisonous waste — an unfortunate byproduct of alumina refining (which seriously sounds like a mediocre superhero movie plot device) — broke loose upon several villages.

At least seven people are dead and 150 injured in the wake of 180 million gallons of the sludge, which has made its way into the multiple rivers and contaminated thousands of acres of agricultural soil that can never be utilized again. Many of the injuries are due to chemical burns, as the waste is comprised in large part of alkaline and thus incredibly caustic. The current and future environmental damage is staggering to conceive.

Which makes it totally horrifying that the whole thing might happen all over again. The Hungarian environment minister is now calling the collapse of the reservoir’s north wall “inevitable” after a 25-meter crack appeared in the days following the original spill. Efforts to build dams and widen the dyke are underway; in the meantime, at least one town has evacuated and another is prepared to do so. Those villages already flooded are, of course, completely destroyed.

But wait — there’s more.

Environmentalists said high levels of arsenic and mercury, which can cause cancer, had been found in water polluted by the ooze and that, if airborne, this could enter the human respiratory system.

So … to recap: Sludge. More sludge. Dead and chemically burned Hungarians. Polluted rivers. Cancer cloud. And no one’s accepting the blame.


– Diana Newby

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