Image: Hungarian resident wears mask to protect from toxic red sludge
Bela Szandelszky  /  AP
A local resident wears a protective mask as streets are covered by toxic red sludge in Devecser, Hungary on Wednesday. Authorities said one of the cracks on the damaged reservoir that flooded the area has widened slightly.
msnbc.com news services
updated 10/14/2010 10:46:01 AM ET 2010-10-14T14:46:01

Officials said Thursday that one of the cracks on the damaged reservoir that flooded towns in western Hungary with red sludge has widened slightly but is not expected to upset plans for area residents to return to their homes soon.

Disaster agency spokeswoman Gyorgyi Tottos said a crack on the northern wall of the metals plant's storage pool holding a byproduct of aluminum manufacturing widened by around half an inch.

Tottos said plans are still on for residents of Kolontar, the town closest to the 24-acre reservoir, to return to their homes starting Friday and a new protective wall will be in place.

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About 184 million gallons of caustic sludge and water burst from a storage pool of a metals plant Oct. 4, inundating three western Hungarian towns and spilling into the Danube.

The red sludge, a highly caustic byproduct of the production of alumina, killed nine people.

"Life won't be returning to normal for a very, very long time," said Devecser Mayor Tamas Toldi, whose town was one those swamped by the toxic slurry.

On Wednesday, the lawyer for the head of the metals company linked to the devastating spill said a judge dismissed prosecution demands that the executive be charged with negligence.

Police released Zoltan Bakonyi from custody, the lawyer said.

The plant will restart production by Friday and will stay under state control for up to two years, the disaster commissioner said on Wednesday.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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