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Red Sludge Toxicity Levels Dropping, Hungarian Government Officials Say

The damaged reservoir near an alumina plant is seen from the air, in Kolontar, Hungary. Darko Bandic/AP Photo hide caption

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Darko Bandic/AP Photo

The toxicity of that red sludge has "dropped to the level allowed in drinking water," The Associated Press reports.

The test results released by the National Catastrophe Management Directorate on Friday further allay concerns that the river would be significantly polluted.

According to Al Jazeera, "Sandor Pinter, the interior minister, told a news conference on Friday that the spill had not affected the drinking water so far, and Anna Nagy, the government spokesman, said the food chain was safe."

"Let's not even consider the pollution that got into the Danube as real pollution now," Pinter said. "It will not be of an extent which would cause biological or environmental damage."

Some environmental groups, including the WWF and Greenpeace, are skeptical.

Yesterday, The Guardian reported the spill's "alkaline content in the Raba and Mosoni-Danube was around pH 9 — the normal level is 6-8."

Gabor Figeczky, the WWF's Hungarian branch director, told the British newspaper that "the impact on the Marcal had been worse than expected, but the level of alkaline should dilute to safe levels once the sludge reached the Danube., Europe's second longest river."

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According to the USA Today, two more bodies were found in the sludge today, and another man died from "injuries sustained in the torrent," as "the mighty Danube apparently absorbed Hungary's massive red sludge spill with little immediate damage."

The newspaper notes "laboratory tests heightened concerns about possible long-term harm caused by toxic heavy metals in the slurry."