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Officials: No Risk Of Biological Disaster In Danube From Spill

Fire fighters cleaning up in the town of Gyor

Fire fighters cleaning up in the town of Gyor

Hungary's government says there is no risk of a biological or environmental catastrophe in the Danube River as alkalinity levels from a toxic alumina sludge spill have declined.

Environmental officials said that four days after sludge spilled from an alumina plant reservoir in western Hungary, samples showed water quality was close to normal in the Danube, Europe's second-longest river.

The spill occurred in Ajka, 160 kilometers west of Budapest, causing the deaths of six people, and reached the Danube on October 7.

Hungarian disaster official Tibor Dobson had said there were reports of sporadic fish death in the Raba and the Mosoni-Danube rivers, affected by the spill earlier. Dobson said all fish had died in the smaller Marcal River, which was hit first.

Interior Minister Sandor Pinter told a news conference that the October 4 spill in western Hungary had not affected drinking water so far, while government spokeswoman Anna Nagy said there would be no impact on food safety.

However, environmental watchdog Greenpeace today warned of "surprisingly high" levels of arsenic and mercury in the red sludge and said the government had concealed the toxicity of the mud.

compiled from agency reports