Communism Leaves Toxic Waste Sites in Eastern Europe

Abandoned mines in Romania are making rivers dirtier. Hungarian chemical plants produce thousands of tons of poisonous material and soils in Slovakia are contaminated with substances that cause cancer.

20 years after the collapse of Eastern Europe ecological mistakes that were made during the Communist era can still be seen everywhere. A lot has been done to clean up eastern European waste sites but many more remain.

In the worst catastrophe in history poisonous mud that came out of a pond of a Hungarian chemical plant killed eight people and made wide areas unusable for many years.



One of the problems is that ecologists do not really know how many such ecological time bombs still exist. They warn that there are other storage lakes that contain toxic material north of Budapest. If gates break there Hungary’s drinking water could be in danger. Other sites may lead to the poisoning of ground water .




Hungary’s sludge lakes are leftovers from the Soviet era, when Hungary became the Eastern Bloc’s main producer of aluminum.

After the Hungarian disaster Bulgarian authorities have ordered checks on the country’s waste ponds, most of which contain heavy metals and other dangerous material. They don’t like to recall an accident that happened in 1966 when sludge from a copper factory killed almost 500 people.

In Romania an environmental disaster occurred ten years ago when a reservoir with cyanide broke and killed fish and wildlife. Croatia counts 9 places where dangerous waste has been deposited for decades and which have to be cleaned. An asbestos factory near Split closed some years ago but a few thousand cubic meters of waste has not been cleaned up yet. Today residents complain that asbestos particles are in the air when the wind blows.

According to the World Wildlife Fund the poisonous ponds endanger nature and wildlife in the area, especially the delta of the Danube River, which is the home to over 300 bird species.


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  • abandon = something that is left alone or left behind
  • according to = as said by …
  • authority = government organization that has the power to make decisions and is responsible for certain things
  • cancer = a serious disease in which cells in a part of your body start to grow in a way that is not normal
  • catastrophe = disaster
  • check = to find out if something is safe
  • collapse = end, breakdown
  • contain = have in it
  • contaminate = to make a place dirty so that you cannot use it any more
  • copper = soft reddish brown material that lets electricity and heat pass through easily; it is used for wires and water pipes
  • cyanide = very strong poison
  • decade = a period of ten years
  • deposit = leave, dump
  • disaster = catastrophe
  • ecological = connected with the way plants, animals and people live with each other
  • ecologist = a scientist who studies ecology
  • endanger = put into danger
  • environment = the world around us
  • especially = above all, mainly
  • gate = big door
  • heavy metal = poisonous metal like gold or lead
  • mud = wet earth that has become soft and sticky
  • occur = happen
  • particle = small elements of a material
  • plant = factory
  • poison = substance that can lead to death or illness if you eat or drink it
  • pond = small lake
  • recall = remember
  • remain = stay
  • reservoir =tank, basin, lake
  • resident = a person who lives in an area
  • sludge = mud
  • soil = the top layer of the earth in which plants grow
  • species = group of animals or plants that are similar and can produce young animals or plants
  • storage lake = lake or basin that you keep something in
  • substance = material
  • time bomb = a situation that will become a big problem
  • toxic = poisonous
  • unusable = cannot be used
  • waste site = place where unwanted material is left