Special equipment to tackle the clean up of the old Thala Valley waste site near Casey station in Antarctica will be transported aboard the Polar Bird when it sails today, Parliamentary Secretary for the Antarctic Dr Sharman Stone has announced.

Thala Valley was used as the Casey station’s tip site for some years when leaving rubbish behind in Antarctica was common practice by all nations and environmental standards were not those we have in place today. Australia now removes all its waste from Antarctica.

Thala Valley is located near the old Casey station and is being used as a case study to try to identify the best ways to decontaminate the site, impacts on the environment and to trial new methods for cleaning up waste sites in a manner that makes sure the contaminants are not spread further.

Dr Stone said that Australian Antarctic Division scientists in collaboration with the University of Melbourne and private company IntelEco have developed a portable water treatment plant to deal with contaminated water at the Thala Valley site. “This water treatment plant has been specially designed for the freezing conditions in Antarctica.”

“The plant will be tested this year to fine-tune the procedures so that it will take up dirty water, remove contaminants and discharge clean water into nearby Brown Bay during the clean up planned for 2003/04,” she said.

“Barrier materials such as specially-designed cages and fabric will also be taken to Casey for use during the clean-up program. Custom-built containers, donated by Collex, are also being pre-positioned for bringing waste back to Australia next season for treatment and safe dispersal,” said Dr Stone.

The Australian Antarctic Division’s Chief Engineer Chris Paterson will supervise the preparations for clean up of Thala Valley this year as part of the planning for implementation next year.

Dr Stone said that activities during the summer months at Thala Valley were a critical phase of the 10 year planned clean-up program.

“We need to be sure that we find the best methods of dealing with Antarctic waste, so that we can apply them to the clean up of other sites in Antarctica”