The village that sank beneath sewage: Romanian settlement lies hidden beneath rising toxic sludge with just occasional rooftops still visible
These haunting new pictures show a Romanian ghost village that lies hidden beneath rising toxic sludge, with just the occasional rooftops still visible, over four decades after its residents were forced to evacuate.
All that remains of Geamana in Western Romania is a church spire protruding from the toxic lake that has hardened over time, a spattering of ruined houses in the shallower waters and abandoned farm equipment.
Incredible drone footage of Geamana has shown the devastation after the villagers were forced out of their homes in 1978 to make way for a deluge of toxic slurry from a nearby copper mine.
The new pictures – which come at a time of increasing awareness of the human impact on the environment – show all that now remains of the village, which was once inhabited by around 400 families.
The multi-coloured toxic sludge rises by around three feet each year and soon the church – along with all of the other buildings in the village – will be completely submerged.
Pictured: An abandoned house and out-house are shown mostly submerged in a toxic lake. They are two of the last structures that remain of Geamana in Western Romania after it was flooded by toxic waste from a copper mine in 1978
All that remains of Geamana is a church spire protruding from the toxic lake that has hardened over time (pictured), along with a spattering of ruined houses in the shallower waters and abandoned farm equipment
Pictured: Aerial drone footage shows the scale of the water pollution from a nearby copper mine. The villagers were forced out of their homes in 1978 to make way for a deluge of toxic slurry that filled the valley
The multi-coloured toxic sludge (pictured) rises by around three feet each year and soon the church – along with all of the other buildings in the village – will be completely submerged
In 1977, communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu announced plans to build the Roșia Poieni super mine and offered affected residents around £1,500 each to leave their homes – some of which had been there for generations – to make way for the toxic waste.
A year later the Apuseni Mountain village was under the polluted, metallic water.
At it’s peak the mine was producing over 11,000 tons of copper a year, making it the biggest mine in Romania.
Left: Pictures show the Romanian village of Geamana before it was flooded with toxic waste. The church is shown built high on a hill, giving a sense of how deep the toxic lake now is. Right: The church as it can be seen today, almost fully submerged
A black and white picture of how Geamana, housed in the Apuseni Mountains, used to look, with it’s distinctive church spire that now pokes out of the man-made lake
Pictured: A photo from the village before it was flooded shows happy residents with a cow, surrounded by small homes. The village was once inhabited by around 400 families, but were forced to evacuate by Romania’s then-communist government
But the waste products from the mine were washed into the man-made valley, which spelled the end for the remote community, which was built in what became a catch-basin for the toxic waste.
As a steady supply of acidic grey-and-red liquid filled Geamana’s valley following the mine’s opening, 20 villagers refused to leave and simply moved to higher ground.
Some of the villagers thought they would be made rich by agreeing to move. They were supposed to be relocated just a matter of miles away, but they were instead moved over 60 miles from their devastated home.
Iron, sulphur and copper residues from a the copper mine cause the sickly patterns in the lake. Orange mixes with purple, green and yellow to create the hypnotic ripples. Pictured: An aerial view of the lake shows the environmental damage
Pictured: The church spire as seen on February 16, 2021. In this photo, the bricks of the church are just about visible under the spire. In the latest images, they are completely submerged, showing the speed of the rising toxic sludge
Locals were also furious at officials after the broke their promise to relocate the graves, which still lie around the slowly disappearing church, and under the toxic sludge.
As the mining continued, the ‘lake’ of contaminated waste continued to rise with it, creating the surreal landscape shown in the latest photographs, with nothing but the church steeple and a few abandoned houses to show for the town.
The acidic lake contains cyanide, used in the extraction process, which is highly toxic and can have a devastating environmental impact on a surrounding area should it leak, such as poisoning rivers and killing animals.
Pictured: A view over the toxic lake with some of the few remaining homes in the foreground. As a steady supply of acidic grey-and-red liquid filled Geamana’s valley following the mine’s opening, 20 villagers refused to leave and simply moved to higher ground. They, too, will be forced to move as the water level rises
Pictured: Abandoned farming equipment and two farm buildings that remain near the lake
Speaking in 2019, Romanian photographer and urban explorer Cristian Lipovan, 36, – who frequently visits the lake and witnessed year on year how the village has sank below the poisonous water – spoke of his experiences capturing the slow and devastating process.
‘Geamana is a missing village, a ghost village, swallowed by a lake that has vivid, unreal living colours,’ Mr Lipovan said at the time. ‘The water that surrounds the hill is red in colour, it shows that everything is poisoned, from water, grass, trees, fruits, vegetables, animals and ultimately man.
‘The lake is growing rapidly, and there are still people living in the area who live with the threat of poisonous water encroaching on their homes.’
Pictured: A image taken from drone footage showing the church’s spire, that is one of the only remaining structures visible above the rising toxic sludge
Pictured: The church in a photograph from September 2011, demonstrating how high the water has risen since
He added: ‘The atmosphere is bleak and gloomy because of the psychedelic, unnatural colours and because of the poor, unfortunate people who spend their days eating, drinking, smelling and breathing poison.’
‘The sad story began in 1977, when Nicolae Ceausescu moved the population from Geamana village to make a waste disposal site for the Rosia Poieni copper mine,’ said Mr Lipovan in 2019.
‘It is the largest copper mine in Romania and at that time it was the largest in Europe.
‘It’s now creating a real ‘ecological bomb’ in the Apuseni Mountains,’ he said.