Hungary: Court sentences co officials over 2010 toxic spill leaving 10 dead & over 200 injured

On 4 February 2019, a Hungarian court sentenced Magyar Aluminium company officials to up to 2.5 years in prison for one of the country's worst environmental disasters that left ten people dead and over 200 injured when a ruptured reservoir wall at an aluminium plant sent a wave of toxic sludge across the countryside in 2010.

The verdicts are the result of a two-year retrial - in an initial trial in 2016, 15 company employees had been cleared of any criminal wrongdoing.

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Article
4 February 2019

Hungary court jails company officials over 2010 toxic spill

Author: France 24

A Hungarian court on Monday sentenced company officials to up to 2.5 years in prison for one of the country's worst environmental disasters that killed ten people and destroyed rivers with toxic waste.

More than 200 were also injured in October 2010 when a holding reservoir of the MAL alumina plant in the western town of Ajka burst its walls, sending 1.1 million cubic metres (38.8 million cubic feet) of sludge into nearby villages and countryside...

In an initial trial in 2016, 15 company employees [...] were cleared of any criminal wrongdoing, with the court finding the disaster was caused by factors largely outside of MAL's control...

However, prosecutors successfully secured a retrial, arguing that [...] the fallout of the disaster could have been diminished if management had intervened earlier...

The verdicts are open to appeal.

Despite vast sums spent on depolluting the region, it still bears traces of the tragedy.

Hundreds of hectares of land remain sealed off and cannot be used for cultivation.

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Article
4 February 2016

Hungary court acquits leaders of firm behind toxic spill

Author: Marton Dunai, Reuters

Fifteen people tried in connection with a toxic spill from an alumina reservoir in western Hungary that killed 10 people in 2010 were acquitted on Thursday, an outcome a local mayor said would only serve to further traumatize and anger residents.The spill was one of Hungary's worst environmental disasters. Toxic red mud flowing from the reservoir destroyed hundreds of homes across three towns, covered the countryside and seeped into rivers as far downstream as the Danube...MAL Corp, the aluminum smelting company that owned the faulty alumina reservoir was subsequently taken over by the government, which declared it responsible for the incident and began to close it down. It is still under liquidation...But in a first instance ruling, the court in the western town of Veszprem said executives and top employees of MAL had not been criminally negligent, nor had they committed other crimes they were charged with...

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Article
11 October 2010

Hungary: Managing director of MAL Zrt arrested over toxic spill from aluminia plant - company to be nationalised

Author: Dan Bilefsky, New York Times

The managing director of the company whose reservoir unleashed a lethal torrent of red sludge on three villages last week has been arrested, the Hungarian prime minister announced before Parliament on Monday. He will be charged with criminal negligence leading to a public catastrophe, and if convicted could face a sentence of up to 10 years, according to a government spokeswoman. The arrested man, Zoltan Bakonyi, works for MAL Zrt [Magyar Aluminium], the Hungarian Aluminum Production and Trade Company. He was not available for comment and a spokeswoman for Mal Zrt did not return phone calls...Updating Parliament on the government’s response, Prime Minister Viktor Orban said a new emergency law would be enacted in order to bring MAL Zrt under state control. He said a state commissioner would be appointed to manage the company and its assets...[The Prime Minister] said the government would make sure it paid for damages.

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Article
10 October 2010

Hungary fears further toxic spill

Author: Chris Bryant, Financial Times

Engineers rushed to erect an emergency dam to prevent further toxic spill at an alumina plant in western Hungary amid fears that part of the reservoir could collapse for a second time...unleashing another tide of red sludge. Rescue teams warned that the reservoir...could soon give way as recently discovered cracks began to widen. About 1,000 residents from the nearby village of Kolontar were evacuated...About 800,000 cubic metres of red sludge spilt from the reservoir... At least seven people were killed and around 150 injured...[T]here are fears that ecology and communities in the immediate vicinity of the plant could be devastated further if more sludge escaped. Viktor Orban, Hungary’s prime minister...called the disaster an ecological tragedy unprecedented in Hungary’s history, said there would be “very severe” consequences for anyone found responsible. MAL Rt, the Hungarian Aluminium Production and Trade Company, has pledged funds to aid the clean-up but insists it could not have detected or averted the disaster.

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Article
5 October 2010

Hungary: Dam burst at alumina plant releases toxic sludge which kills four, injures 120

Author: BBC

Hungary has declared a state of emergency in three western counties after sludge from an alumina plant killed four people and injured 120. The red chemical sludge flooded out of a burst dam, affecting at least seven villages and towns including Devecser...The sludge is said to contain caustic material and to be toxic if ingested...The sludge escaped from a reservoir at the Ajkai Timfoldgyar plant in the town of Ajka. Police say they have confiscated documents from the company's headquarters. MAL Rt [Magyar Aluminium], the Hungarian company which owns the plant, said that, by EU standards, the sludge had not been considered hazardous. There had been no sign of the impending disaster and the last examination of the reservoir pond on Monday had shown nothing untoward, it added. It said it believed the company management "could not have noticed the signs of the natural catastrophe nor done anything to prevent it even while carefully respecting technological procedures".

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