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Dispersal and dilution of wastewater from an ocean outfall at Davis Station, Antarctica, and resulting environmental contamination


Stark, JS and Bridgen, P and Dunshea, G and Galton-Fenzi, B and Hunter, J and Johnstone, G and King, C and Leeming, R and Palmer, A and Smith, J and Snape, I and Stark, S and Riddle, M, Dispersal and dilution of wastewater from an ocean outfall at Davis Station, Antarctica, and resulting environmental contamination, Chemosphere, 152 pp. 142-157. ISSN 0045-6535 (2016) [Refereed Article]

Copyright Statement

Copyright 2016 Elsevier Ltd

DOI: doi:10.1016/j.chemosphere.2016.02.053


The Antarctic Treaty permits the discharge of wastewater into Antarctic marine waters providing that conditions exist for initial dilution and rapid dispersal. We investigated the dilution and dispersal of macerated wastewater around Australia's Davis Station in East Antarctica and examined sediments for evidence of contaminants. Methods used to examine hydrodynamic conditions included current meters, dye release experiments and measurement of sewage-associated microbial markers and surfactants in the water column. We measured marine sediments for metals, nutrients, PBDEs, hydrocarbons and faecal sterols. We propose that if there is adequate dilution and dispersal there would be no significant difference in contaminant concentrations in sediments around the outfall compared to distant control sites. Currents were strongly correlated with prevailing wind conditions. Modelling indicated that diffusivity of wastewater had the greatest effect on dilution factors and that neither discharge rates nor local currents had as much effect. During summer conditions of open water, wastewater is likely to be constrained in a narrow plume close to the coast. Concentrations of sewage bacteria were high around the outfall and detected up to 1.5 km away, along with dye. There were significant differences in sediment concentrations of metals, PBDEs, hydrocarbons, nutrients and faecal sterols between sites within 2 km of the outfall and control sites. We conclude that dilution and dispersal conditions at the Davis outfall are insufficient to prevent the accumulation of contaminants in local sediments and that microbial hazards posed by wastewater are an environmental risk to local wildlife.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:sewage, metals, PBDE, microbial, coastal currents, hydrocarbons
Research Division:Environmental Sciences
Research Group:Environmental Science and Management
Research Field:Environmental Impact Assessment
Objective Division:Environment
Objective Group:Ecosystem Assessment and Management
Objective Field:Ecosystem Assessment and Management of Antarctic and Sub-Antarctic Environments
UTAS Author:Galton-Fenzi, B (Dr Ben Galton-Fenzi)
UTAS Author:Hunter, J (Dr John Hunter)
ID Code:115071
Year Published:2016
Web of Science® Times Cited:6
Deposited By:CRC-Antarctic Climate & Ecosystems
Deposited On:2017-03-07
Last Modified:2017-11-21

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