Bucharest (AFP) Oct 6, 2010
Countries bordering the Danube reinforced water quality controls after a toxic mud spill in Hungary raised fears that pollution could reach the second longest river in Europe.
In Serbia, downstrean from Hungary, authorities are monitoring closely the quality of waters even though the heavy metals pollution does not currently threaten the country, Predrag Maric, in charge of emergency situations at the interior ministry, told B92 TV station.
In Romania where the Danube runs through a large part of the country before reaching the Black Sea, the national water administration is taking water samples of the river every three hours, spokeswoman Ana-Maria Agiu told AFP.
"We are then analyzing the concentration of heavy metals," she added.
According to Agiu, Hungarian water authorities dropped 400 tonnes of calcium and magnesium nitrate in the Marcal and Torna rivers to neutralise the pollution after the retaining walls of a reservoir at an aluminium plant collapsed, unleashing a toxic soup of industrial waste.
Dams were also built on the Marcal river to prevent contaminated waters from reaching anothe river, the Raba.
"If toxic substance would reach Romania through the Danube, it would not be before four or five days and we expect that they would be diluted," Agiu added.
In Ukraine, the emergency situations ministry installed a working group to follow the situation even though "there is no threat for Ukraine" because of the long distance between its territory and Hungary where the pollution occurred.
The Danube delta, listed as World Heritage natural site, lies in Romania and in Ukraine.
"It is very difficult at the moment to estimate the impact of the mud spill on the Danube because we do not know what is the concentration of toxic metals in the waters in Hungary", Orieta Hulea, head of the WWF's Danube/Freshwater Programme, told AFP.
"This accident should draw attention to the danger of having factories of this nature close to the Danube. In Romania, there is an aluminium factory in Tulcea on the edge of the Danube delta," Hulea added.
A cyanide spill in 2000 from a gold mine in Romania contaminated the river Tisza in neighboring Hungary and also the Danube, in what was described then by Hungarian authorities as a "second Chernobyl".
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