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Human waste dumped in Antarctica
More than half of 71 Antarctic scientific stations surveyed lack any kind of sewage treatment system, a Swedish study has found.
The biggest countries are among those with the most basic operations at some of their permanent stations, and Australia does not emerge unscathed from the survey.
Sewage treatment at Davis station has for years been limited to maceration before the waste is dumped into the sea.
Fredrik Grondahl, of Stockholm's Royal Institute of Technology, said technology already existed for effective waste treatment in most of Antarctica.
The larger countries particularly needed to take responsibility to improve overall standards, Professor Grondahl said.
''I have been on a couple of Antarctic stations, and with my own eyes seen the need of improvements,'' he told The Age. ''On one station the sewage water was released without treatment directly into the sea.''
The Antarctic Treaty's Madrid Protocol commits countries to comprehensive protection of the Antarctic environment, and calls for waste to be reduced as much as possible to minimise its impact.
The effect of this waste on the vast frozen continent is magnified because stations cluster mainly on the 2 per cent of ice-free Antarctic rock - terrain that is hot property not just for people, but for wildlife.
Fouling of the nearby marine environment was, until 2003, clearly visible at the largest station, the US McMurdo base. It had no treatment, and high densities of coliform bacteria damaged sea life along a one-kilometre shoreline.
More recently, Professor Grondahl said there was evidence salmonella bacteria had been brought to Antarctica by people, and E.coli had turned up in Antarctic wildlife for the first time, in fur seals.
In the survey, published in Polar Research, Professor Grondahl found 15 permanent stations used no treatment at all, and only four went to the length of operating state-of-the-art tertiary stage plants.
Among the offenders were the US, Japan, France, Russia and Britain.
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