The Australian Antarctic Division (AAD) has developed a new wastewater treatment facility for Davis research station, to mitigate environmental impacts and risks to the coastal marine environment. In 2012, a comprehensive study looked at wastewater disposal into the coastal marine environment near Davis and identified several significant environmental effects, including the presence of some contaminants in the marine environment and food chain.
Thus, the AAD installed a new secondary-level wastewater treatment plant that uses best-practice technologies. The secondary treatment plant will reduce the risks of introducing non-native microorganisms and genetic material into the coastal marine environment. It is worth noting that this level of treatment exceeds any requirements addressed in the provisions of Annex III to the Madrid Protocol. The treatment plant was constructed and tested in Germany, and shipped to Antarctica during the 2014–15 season for commissioning during the 2015–16 season. A similar secondary treatment plant will be installed at Casey Station during the 2016–17 season, and at Mawson Station the following year.
In addition to the secondary treatment plant, an advanced-level wastewater treatment plant has been designed and constructed to recycle the effluent from the secondary-level plant to a standard that meets the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines for potable water. The advanced treatment plant will use novel combinations of existing technologies that have been successfully tested by academic and industry partners, and will build on research into the purification of recycled water. Once completed, the 2 treatment plants will work in conjunction and be housed in a purpose-designed building at Davis. The combined wastewater treatment process will produce discharge that will have no adverse environmental impacts and will also produce potable water for potential re-use on station.
To achieve the high environmental standards required, several proven technologies have been employed. The secondary-level plant is based on current membrane bioreactor technology. The advanced-level plant uses several advanced oxidation technologies, including ozone, ultraviolet light and chlorine, as well as ceramic microfiltration, activated carbon filtration and reverse osmosis.
The project had to address several challenges associated with installing and operating an advanced-level wastewater treatment plant in Antarctica. Because of the remote and isolated location, the plant has been designed to be highly resilient, and to be monitored and operated remotely from Australia, if necessary. The plant has also been designed to minimise the number of chemicals and consumables that are required to operate and maintain it.