The first phase of the Pluto/Ceres conjunction brought us the Horizon oil rig disaster, and now as Ceres prepares to conjoin Pluto for the second time we have a “flood of red sludge” that could equal or exceed the negative effects to the environment of the oil spill:

As Hungarian authorities take stock of the formidable task to clean up a toxic sludge spill that has killed at least four people, many environmentalist groups say the government should outlaw storing toxic red sludge from alumina processing in open reservoirs.

Those living near the Ajkai Aluminia Refinery, which is about 100 miles southwest of Budapest, say a wave of “red mud,” which is a byproduct from turning bauxite into alumina, washed through their towns Monday afternoon after a dam that holds the sludge burst.

At least 100 people have been injured in the incident that has prompted officials to issue a state of emergency for the communities near the refinery. Several days of heavy rains caused the dam to break.

“The long-term consequences could be very bad,” says Marton Vau of Greenpeace Hungary, noting that the sludge could leak into the drinking water supply, and, if allowed to dry, could become airborne and inhaled. The alkaline substance, which is already responsible for killing fish in local rivers, could also threaten the Danube River.

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Sadly, humans have very short memories and no sooner was it clear that the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico did not appear as devastating as feared (although the long-term effects are not yet known), oil companies were clamoring to expand deep ocean drilling.  But the combination of Pluto’s potentially devastating transformations with Ceres’ call to respect the Earth will be a potent reminder that humans are frail creatures, completely dependent upon the grace of mother nature.

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