Access to the village is technically unauthorized. Image courtesy of the author.
Access to the village is technically unauthorized. Image courtesy of the author.

Romanian’s communist aftermath is still gathering in a toxic Transylvanian lake. The village of Geamăna, is nestled on its shore, host to a sparse and private population which peeks out of their windows as you coast by the five hut village on the restricted access mining road that leads to the toxic lake. Affirmation that the huts were indeed occupied was from the smoke rising from their chimneys and voices heard while I was investigating the shoreline, out of their direct line of sight. Nestled in a Transylvanian valley of the Apuseni Mountains, the area and roads surrounding the village are reminiscent of the West Virginian mining country. That is until you are greeted by an insanely massive toxic wasteland.

The Transylvania toxic lake is the runoff of the adjacent copper mining operation, headquartered in Rosia Poieni. The village of Geamăna is now the decantation basin of Rosia Poieni. It is rumored that several other local villages, were also swallowed up for the same purpose, but I was unable to find any real evidence of this hearsay. It is known that the Geamăna decantation basin is currently estimated at 130 hectares, and is holding approximately 30 million tons of toxic waste.

Shoreside of the basin. Image courtesy of the author.
Shoreside of the basin. Image courtesy of the author.

The village was initially damned, in both ways starting in 1977, when Romania’s communist dictator, Nicolae Ceausescu authorized copper exploitation in Rosia Poieni, which at the time was speculated to be the largest deposit in Europe, although regional reports from this time period are well known for exaggeration. By 1978 an estimated 350 families or 1,000 civilians depending on the reports were expropriated by the communist regime and relocated to cities as part of Ceausescu’s other schema to depopulate villages, to reinforce the urban industrial workforce.

Facts about the status of the current residents are unreliable and often come with a fantastic tall tale. While questioning locals and those familiar with the site, the primary stories are that the remaining villagers either simply refused to be removed or in some way or another stood up to the officials who imposed the forced expropriation. A more realistic assessment would list the current occupants as illegal squatters, which is a largescale issue in Romania; an issue that also heavily plagues the historical buildings of the capital city, Bucharest.