Contaminant dispersal and mitigation at Casey Station: an example of how applied geoscience research can reduce environmental risks in Antarctica

Ian Snape, Damian B. Gore, Coleen M. Cole, Martin J. Riddle

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Geoscience research in support of environmental management in Antarctica is a new and emerging application of science. We predict that increased environmental awareness and recognition of the legal responsibility that is embodied in the Madrid Protocol will provide motivation for national programmes to clean up contaminated sites and abandoned waste. However, before informed environmental management decisions can be made, considerable site-specific and process-oriented geoscience research is needed. To illustrate the application of geoscience research in Antarctica, we describe preliminary observations from case studies at the abandoned American/Australian Wilkes Station, and the disused and dismantled Australian Old Casey Station. We found that defining contaminant release pathways in a catchment management framework is a useful approach by which to understand how contaminants migrate in seasonally frozen ground. The most important observation is that chemical profiles develop quickly in the active layer, and that heavy metal and petroleum-hydrocarbon contaminants are mobile in the summer months. For heavy metals associated with abandoned waste, the main contaminant flux is through entrainment of particles and dispersal by surface runoff. For petroleum hydrocarbons, absorption to particles and dispersal by surface runoff is also important, although groundwater transport is more dominant. These observations, when linked to the research of other disciplines such as ecology and chemical engineering, provide important information for site management, and define which of the three broad management options: "do nothing", "dig-and-haul removal", or "in situ rehabilitation" are most appropriate.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)641-648
    Number of pages8
    JournalRoyal Society of New Zealand bulletin
    Publication statusPublished - 2002


    • Antarctica
    • pollution
    • Wilkes Station
    • remediation
    • contaminant
    • tips
    • heavy metals
    • petroleum hydrocarbons
    • active layer
    • permafrost
    • GIS
    • Casey Station


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