That toxic sludge in Hungary

Peeps don\’t seem to be able to understand the logic of what they themselves are saying.

Experts have warned a new flood could be even more toxic, because much of what poured out in the original leak was water, leaving the remaining sludge more concentrated.

Let us remind ourselves of what this \”toxic sludge\” actually is. It\’s red mud, a mixture of iron oxides, alumina, silicates, titanium oxides (and a large number of silicates of all of those) plus water and caustic soda.

The heavy metals and radioactives contents are around and about what you find in soils all over the place. Indeed, red mud is sometimes used to spread on land that is too acidic: the caustic soda aids in making the soil more alkaline.

We\’ve got two dangers here, two problems.

The first and most obvious is the caustic soda. Horrible stuff, will kill through chemical burns and the only real solution is, umm, to put it into solution. To dilute it in fact. Which is why the Danube is back to normal after last week\’s leak. Big river the Danube (just as an example, one such aluminium plant dumps its fresh red mud straight into the Gulf of Corinth. Sufficient water there that it goes from being a horrible toxic mess to a suspension of dirt in the water and then silt: problem solved.).

The second is the sheer volume of the stuff and the way in which a wave of it will indeed drown/crush what is in its path.

So, if most of the water has run off (taking, as you can imagine, a goodly protion of the caustic soda with it), what\’s left? Yup, a rather more solid than before pile of those oxides and silicates. That\’s the \”more concentrated\” bit. And what do we know about \”more concentrated\” suspensions of dirt?

Yes, that\’s right, if they do escape then they don\’t go that far. Because they\’re more concentrated, more like a pile of dirt than a free flowing liquid. This is why you can have a pile of mud but not a pile of water.

Yes, of course there are still dangers: but not nearly the dangers that we seem to be getting from the more excitable of the environmentalists. As I\’ve pointed out elsewhere. This is indeed a disaster, not least for those who have lost their lives and homes. But it\’s a short-term disaster, not a long term one. One good rainy winter and the land and the rivers will be clear of what has spilled so far.

As I\’ve also pointed out elsewhere we\’ve been working for a couple of years on a way of actually treating this red mud so that instead of it being a waste, it becomes a resource to be mined. Our funding application went in four months ago, decision time around the end of the year.

No, I haven\’t been to Hungary in two decades…..nor do I know how to drive a bulldozer.

2 thoughts on “That toxic sludge in Hungary”

  1. I’m sure that if you look around you’ll find journalists writing that caustic soda causes “acid burns”. Pig-ignorance is a qualification for the job, it often seems.

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