Second blow for wounded Tisza river

Further Romanian tailings dam burst greeted with horror by environmental groups

A Romanian mine tailings dam burst on Friday, releasing an estimated 20,000 tonnes of heavy metal-contaminated sludge. The spill is threatening the Vasa river, a tributary of the Tisza, which was devastated by cyanide spilled from another Romanian metal mine lagoon spill on 30 January (ENDS Daily 10 February).

Environmental groups have reacted with alarm. "This is one more warning signal of potential time bombs...waiting to go off all over Europe," said Phil Weller of the World Wide Fund for Nature's Danube Carpathian programme. Friends of the Earth Hungary called for the EU task force set up to investigate the January spill to be given an "accelerated and extended role" following the new accident. The task force held its first meeting in Brussels today.

The immediate environmental impacts of the Baia Borsa spill appear to be more limited than those following January's Baia Mare accident, partly because not all the sludge reached a river and partly because levels of highly toxic and mobile cyanide appear to be much lower.

Dissolved lead and zinc in Hungarian sections of the Tisza rose to 12 times normal levels over the weekend, according to press reports. On Saturday, Romania's environment minister, Romica Tomescu, threatened to close mining companies failing to respect safety regulations, newswire Associated Press reported.

Follow Up:
WWF Danube Carpathan Programme, tel: +43 676 444 6601; Friends of the Earth Hungary, tel: +36 1 216 7297.

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