In Almásfüzitő, a small factory settlement on the banks of the Danube, hazardous waste is being used to create a topsoil to cover solidified red sludge – residue from a long-closed alumina factory. Stored in large waste reservoirs, the largest of which is just a few hundred metres from locals’ homes, this residue from bauxite processing is separated from the Danube only by a permeable mud wall.
However, neither the state nor locals are up in arms. The company that manages the site, Tatai Environmental Protection Ltd. (TKV), has a valid permit and, for the most part, locals are annoyed at the attention the red mud reservoir attracts from environmentalists and media alike. Maybe, then, the standard way outsiders have looked at Almásfüzitő is wrong. What would it mean to see the settlement in a more positive light?
How about this?
Nestled on the banks of the Danube surrounded by lush vegetation, Almásfüzitő is home to state-of-the-art sports facilities, a kindergarten and primary school that are the envy of the region, a freshly renovated replica Roman camp, and a boat club. It has pretty much full employment, connections by road and train to nearby cities and Budapest, it boasts a well-maintained central square and now has a conscientious mayor who is developing the local infrastructure and has ambitious plans for the future.
Unlike many other post-industrial settlements that have failed to find their place in the last decades, Almásfüzitő is doing fine. Why then, should the settlement be defined by red mud and toxic waste?