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Commission still investigating red sludge case

The European Commission is to inquire information from the Hungarian government within weeks whether it had taken Brussels’ requirements into account regarding the prolongation of the operating permit of Mal Zrt that caused the toxic red sludge disaster last October, BruxInfo wrote.

The European Commission closed an investigation at the beginning of January. The investigation concluded that the Hungarian government should have declared the red sludge hazardous waste, as it is extremely toxic. The Commission told BruxInfo that with the current operation permit of Mal expiring at the end of February, now it wants to know what sort of investigations will precede a possible prolongation of the integrated pollution prevention and control (IPPC) permit.

However, in mid-January, the regional environment protection supervision prolonged the IPPC permit until 2018, as confirmed by Rural Development Minister Sándor Fazekas at a hearing in the European Parliament. Fazekas also said that the company could receive the temporary operation permit as “it eliminated the source of damage, shifted to a more environmentally friendly technology during which the end product of aluminum production, the red sludge, is not liquid but dry.”

A legal debate between the Hungarian government and the Commission is continuing on whether Hungary has fulfilled its obligations by implementing the EU directive on hazardous materials at the end of last year. The Commission is not sure if Hungary will regard red sludge as hazardous material in the future, BruxInfo said, citing the Commission which would initiate a procedure against the Hungarian government for breaching its liabilities in case the government fails to take the necessary actions. (BBJ)