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The Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty requires that past and present work sites be cleaned up unless removal would result in greater adverse environmental impact than leaving the contaminant in its existing location. In the early 1990s Australia began the documentation of contaminated sites associated with its research stations, which resulted in an extensive record of contamination at abandoned stations and waste-disposal sites. Currently the technical capability to remediate these sites does not exist because of environmental challenges that are unique to the cold regions. Investigations indicate that clean-up operations in the past have proceeded without adequate precautions and without effective monitoring. To address these problems, three research priorities have been identified to assist meeting international and national obligations to clean up these sites. They are: understanding contaminant mobilisation processes; development of ecological risk assessment for use in monitoring and setting priorities; and development of clean-up and remediation procedures. This study provides sufficient information to guide the completion of a clean-up at Casey Station and to indicate how other similar sites should be managed. The next stage is to develop the theory into an operational plan to include detailed protocols for clean-up, monitoring, site remediation, and management of the waste stream from site to final repository. To achieve this, the Australian Antarctic Division has established a contaminated sites taskforce to facilitate the transition from research and development of techniques to implementation of suitable clean-up options.
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