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Last updated at 12:50 GMT, Tuesday, 01 February 2011

Hungary to call for stricter waste regulation

Summary

13 October 2010

Last week's serious accident at an aluminium plant in Hungary could lead to tighter regulation of waste dumps across Europe. Eight people died and large areas of land were polluted by waste which escaped in the incident.

Reporter:
Nick Thorpe

A break in the reservoir wall in Hungary and flooding caused by the toxic sludge

A waste reservoir has leaked in Hungary

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When the red sludge reservoir burst near Ajka in western Hungary, one of the first comments from the company was that this material is not classified as 'hazardous' by the European Union.

"That is strictly true", Joe Hennon, the EU spokesman on the environment told the BBC, insofar as the sludge is not on the list of highly toxic materials in the EU hazardous waste directive. But it is included in another directive, on pollution prevention and control, under which the plant received its permission to operate in 2006.

The question of liability for accidents is currently under review by the European Commission. In the Hungarian case, the company can be held liable for damage to the environment, but not for harm to people. And if an accident on the scale of the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico were to happen in European waters, the company would not be held responsible for some of the damage, as oil drilling is not mentioned in the Environmental Liability Directive.

The Hungarian government says it intends to call for a tightening of legislation, at EU level, when it takes over the presidency in January.

Nick Thorpe, BBC News, Budapest

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Vocabulary

sludge

thick muddy waste product

reservoir

tank or storage facility, used to hold large quantities of liquid

not classified

not categorised or defined

highly toxic

poisonous or harmful to human life

hazardous waste directive

official instructions for managing harmful materials

liability

legal responsibility

under review

being evaluated or reassessed

on the scale of

as large or significant as

European waters

lakes, rivers, seas and oceans in Europe

tightening of legislation

increasing the strictness of rules and regulations

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