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The long term fate and environmental significance of contaminant metals released by the January and March 2000 mining tailings dam failures in Maramures County, upper Tisa Basin, Romania
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Dr Andrew Howard
Macklin MG, Brewer PA, Balteanu D, Coulthard TJ, Driga B, Howard AJ, Zaharia S
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In January and March 2000 two tailings dam failures in Maramure County, northwest Romania, resulted in the release of 200,000 m3 of contaminated water and 40,000 tonnes of tailings into tributaries of the Tisa River, a major tributary of the Danube. The high concentrations of cyanide and contaminant metals released by these dam failures resulted in pollution and fish deaths not only in Romania, but also downstream in the Tisa and Danube rivers within Hungary, Serbia and Bulgaria. Following these accidents, a research programme was initiated in northwest Romania to establish metal levels in rivers affected by the tailings dam failures and to compare these to metal values in river systems contaminated by historic mining and industrial activity. In July 2000, 65 surface water, 65 river sediment and 45 floodplain sediment samples were collected from trunk streams and principal tributaries of the Lapu /Some rivers (affected by the January 2000 spill) and the Vi eu/Tisa rivers (affected by the March 2000 Novat spill) down to the Hungarian and Ukrainian borders, respectively. Sample analyses for Pb, Zn Cu and Cd show that metal contamination in surface water and river sediment decreases rapidly downstream away from presently active mines and tailings ponds. Concentrations of heavy metals in water and sediment leaving Romania, and entering Hungary and the Ukraine, generally fall below EC imperative and Dutch intervention values, respectively. However, Zn, Cu and Cd concentrations in river sediments approach or exceed intervention values at the Romanian border. The results of this survey are compared with earlier surveys to ascertain the long-term fate and environmental significance of contaminant metals released by mine tailings dam failures in Maramure County.
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