Issues Magazine

Articles about sewage

Sewage in Antarctica: A Drop in a Frozen Ocean?

Elephant seals on the beach at Davis come into regular contact with wastewater

Elephant seals on the beach at Davis come into regular contact with wastewater effluent. ©David Barringhaus/Commonwealth of Australia

By Jonathan Stark

It’s an unavoidable truth: wherever there are people there is poo. Approaches to the disposal and handling of sewage and wastewater depend on where you are. In Antarctica there are numerous challenges for sewage disposal.

Most Antarctic research stations are situated on the coast, including all three of Australia’s stations. The simplest solution to sewage and wastewater disposal in coastal regions around the world is discharge of effluents into the sea. But how is this regarded under the Antarctic Treaty, and what are the potential impacts of this activity? Is it just a drop in a frozen ocean?