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Media Release
The Hon Dr Sharman Stone
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Federal Member for Murray

11 September 2003

Waste Removal on this Year's Antarctic Agenda


The removal of rubbish such as petroleum contaminants from an old tip site in Antarctica will be one of the major projects by the Australian Antarctic Division (AAD) at Casey station this summer.

On board the resupply ship Aurora Australis which sails south today will be a team of chemists, biologists, engineers and plant operators who will continue the clean up of the Thala Valley site near Casey.

The clean up is part of a 10-year remediation program announced by the Parliamentary Secretary for the Antarctic Dr Sharman Stone at the International Contaminants in Freezing Ground conference held in Hobart in 2002 and is the main focus of research for the Human Impacts Research Program working closely with station operations.

"Thala Valley was once used by Casey station as a place to dump its rubbish. In the past it was common for all nations to leave their rubbish behind, a practice abandoned by Australia in the mid-1980s. Since then we have been bringing our refuse back after each season.

"Throughout the 1990s, Australia was a main player in encouraging other Antarctic Treaty nations to sign the Madrid Protocol which was ratified in 1999 and we have continued to lead by example. Not only did we push for high standards to be set, but we have been following through on how those standards should be met," Dr Stone said.

"The AAD's Human Impacts Research Program has conducted significant research to determine the most appropriate way to get rid of the accumulated waste at Thala Valley, at the same time ensuring that the removal process does not cause greater environmental impact. This summer, much of that research will be applied to the project."

Chief engineer, Chris Paterson, said that custom-built containers donated by Collex had been shipped to the area last summer and were in place for this year's work.

"A specially-designed water treatment plant, the result of collaboration between the AAD, University of Melbourne and private company IntelEco, will also be used to deal with contaminated water at the Thala Valley site," Mr Paterson said.

Dr Stone said that Thala Valley was the first step in a concerted program to clean up other contaminated sites in Australia's Antarctic territory.

Commonwealth of Australia