Geochemical recovery of the Torna–Marcal river system after the Ajka red mud spill, Hungary†
The failure of the Ajka red mud depository in October 2010 led to the largest single release of red mud into the surface water environment. This study provides a comparative assessment of stream sediment quality in the Torna–Marcal–Rába catchment between post-disaster surveys (2010) and follow up surveys at an identical suite of 21 locations in 2013. The signature of red mud apparent in initial surveys with high Al, As, Cr, Na, V was only apparent at a small number of sample stations in recent surveys. These constitute <1 km of stream, compared to the >20 km reach of affected sediments in the immediate aftermath of the spill. Concentrations of red mud-derived contaminants are predominately associated with fine fractions of the red mud (<8 μm). This enhances transport out of the system of red mud-derived contaminants and, along with extensive remedial efforts, has substantially limited the within-channel inventory of potentially ecotoxic metals and metalloids.