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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

18 November 2003

Cleaning Up in the Cold


The Australian Government's cleanup of an old tip site in Antarctica is in full swing and visitors to the Australian Antarctic Division's (AAD) web site can follow its progress with cameras homing in on the action.

Federal Parliamentary Secretary for the Antarctic, Dr Sharman Stone, said the Thala Valley cleanup, adjacent to Casey station was a major first step in an ongoing program to remove waste from and remediate all sites in Australia's claimed Antarctic territory.

"Like other countries with a presence in Antarctica, Australia left behind all manner of domestic, construction and industrial waste. However, since 1986 we have been bringing back each season all our rubbish to be disposed of in Australia," Dr Stone said.

"In fact, Australia has been a major player in developing best practice in the removal of waste from Antarctica and, throughout the 1990s, encouraged 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 press for high standards to be set, we have been following through on how those standards should be met.

"Much of the larger pieces of waste have already been cleared from the Thala Valley site. However, industrial waste such as petroleum and heavy metals have remained until we were sure how to best remove them and it is these contaminants that we will be removing this season," Dr Stone said.

"The Human Impacts Program has done extensive research to ensure that removal methods will not cause further deterioration of the Antarctic environment than if the site were left alone.

"This summer, scientists, environmental managers and engineers are working together to put those procedures in place.

"Custom-built containers donated by Collex were shipped to Thala Valley last summer and put in place ready for this year's work, and a company representative has joined the team to assist.

"The AAD has also worked closely with the University of Melbourne and private company H2AU to develop specially-designed water treatment plant to deal with contaminated water," Dr Stone said.

"The web camera was installed on site mainly for progress to be followed by AAD head office in Tasmania, but it is also a great opportunity for the general public to keep an eye on how the cleanup is going.

"The camera image will change every hour so over the next three months so people who log on to the AAD's web site at www.aad.gov.au will be able to get a good idea of what is taking place."

The Thala Valley cleanup was part of a 10-year waste removal and remediation program first announced at the International Contaminants in Freezing Ground Conference held in Hobart 2002.

Dr Stone said that the project was an clear example of the Australian Government's commitment to ensuring that environmental mistakes of the past in Antarctica were not only never repeated but were reversed.

Commonwealth of Australia