Photo by Palíndromo Mészáros.

Photographer Palíndromo Mészáros has a whole series of photographs documenting the aftereffects of a 2010 toxic aluminum spill in Hungary. They’re all pretty staggering, but this one in particular really messed with our heads. This is not a before photo and an after photo stitched together. This is just what this forest looks like now, two years after being flooded with aluminum-heavy sludge that killed underbrush and left a red stain on trees. 

The accident at the Ajkai Timföldgyár aluminum plant released about 35 million cubic feet of aluminum-infused caustic mud from holding reservoirs, resulting in a spill that affected 15 square miles and killed at least nine people. In some places, the wave of sludge reached seven feet high (as you can see in this photo). The red color is from aluminum byproducts, still marking trees and houses two years later.

You can see the rest of Mészáros’ series at American Photo.

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.

Reader support helps sustain our work. Donate today to keep our climate news free.