The spatial distribution of waste and heavy metal contamination at the old Wilkes Station, East Antarctica

Kirstie Fryirs, Erla Hafsteinsdottir, Ian Snape, Damian Gore

    Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstract


    Legacy waste is a significant problem in Antarctica. This is particularly the case where waste generated on stations prior to the 1980s was placed in landfill sites or disposed of at sea. Although several AAD reports from the 1980s recognize that there are contaminated sites at the abandoned Wilkes station, there has been no systematic attempt to classify the waste or define the spatial scale of the problem, making development of strategic and systematic clean-up or preservation programs difficult. Wilkes. station is situated on the Clark Peninsula in the Windmill Islands, East Antarctica. The station was established by the USA in 1957 as part of the International Geophysical Year, transferred to Australian control in 1959 and abandoned in 1969. Much of the station's equipment, fuel and buildings remain in-situ. During the summer seasons of 2008/09 and 2009110, Fryirs and Hafsteinsdottir undertook fieldwork to classify the waste and collect samples for heavy metal and hydrocarbon analysis. 538 pieces of waste with a volume of around 20,000 m³ were identified across the Clark Peninsula in 6 categories based on their degree of hazard, recyclability, heritage value and their management potential. Petroleum hydrocarbons comprise 35 % of the waste. This waste contains several hundred semi-full fuel drums. Heritage items that illustrate expedition life at Wilkes comprise a further 27 % of the overall waste. Easily recyclable dry waste including timber, copper wire and pipe, scrap iron, steel mechanical parts etc. comprises 26 % of the total. •Non-recyclable waste makes up 5 % of the total and includes battery parts, plastics including fuel bladders, and food remains. Contaminated sediments make up 4 % of the total but are extensive in spatial area. Although hazardous substances such as caustic soda, explosives 'and asbestos makes up only 3 % of the total, these items represent significant contamination and heath issues for the site and for visiting expeditioners. The presence of petroleum hydrocarbons, hazardous substances and contaminated sediments are impacting on the terrestrial and marine environment. Preliminary XRF results show that many of the sediment samples have levels of heavy metal contamination above the ANZECC guidelines. Certain hotspots of contamination occur across the Wilkes station and the Clark Peninsula.
    Original languageEnglish
    Number of pages1
    Publication statusPublished - 2011
    EventAustralian and New Zealand Geomorphology Group Conference (14th : 2011) - Oamaru, New Zealand
    Duration: 31 Jan 20114 Feb 2011


    ConferenceAustralian and New Zealand Geomorphology Group Conference (14th : 2011)
    CityOamaru, New Zealand


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