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ANTARCTICA GETS MULTIMILLION DOLLAR CLEAN-UP

 ANTARCTICA GETS MULTIMILLION DOLLAR CLEAN-UP
 WASHINGTON, March 18 /PRNewswire/ -- An unprecedented $30 million


clean-up operation to remove debris accumulated over decades by man's exploration and incursions to this remote continent has reached a mid-point with this season's hi-tech collection and removal of almost 6 million pounds of refuse from Antarctica by the National Science Foundation (NSF). From the discards of turn-of-the-century explorers to those of today's scientists, the NSF focus is on creation of a "pack-in, pack-out" management system for most waste generated by U.S. Antarctic activities.
 It is the relatively pure environment of this continent -- covered by an ice sheet for millions of years -- that has made Antarctica a laboratory for the world's scientists. It is here that experiments on ozone depletion and global warming have provided insights vital to the future of the planet. And for the scientific community, preserving the purity of this continent is essential. "The thing that makes it a unique laboratory for scientific research is precisely because Antarctica has been unspoiled for so long," said Frederick Bernthal, NSF deputy director. "It would be self defeating if we did not have an aggressive program for protection of the environment," Bernthal continued.
 The NSF has direct responsibility from the president for U.S. research activities in the Antarctic. "The NSF firmly believes that continued scientific research in Antarctica is critical to our past, present and future understanding of the world," said Robert Corell, NSF assistant director for geosciences. "We also believe that such U.S. research efforts can, and indeed must, co-exist effectively with sound environmental practices in Antarctica," Corell continued.
 This season's clean-up effort centered on McMurdo Station, which in addition to its own population of 1,200, receives waste generated by the 140-person U.S. research station at the geographic South Pole as well as about 60 science projects at other locations. This season, officials estimate about 6 million pounds of refuse -- accumulated over decades and including one and a half million pounds of metal, as well as asbestos, PCBs and barrels of human waste -- have been sorted, labeled and containerized for removal and return to the United States.
 Looking to the future, the NSF program also calls for reducing the amount of material shipped in and for expanding the existing recycling program. A more efficient incinerator is being installed. The purpose of this unprecedented, 5-year, $30 million effort according to Peter Wilkniss, polar programs director, is "to protect the vital research underway and to preserve the fragile environment of this unique continent."
 In addition to cleaning up the dump, NSF has:
 -- Developed a waste sorting system in residential areas and at work centers which processes 85 percent of McMurdo's domestic waste, including cardboard, wood, glass, aluminum, other metals, batteries and food-contaminated waste.
 -- Banned all open burning. A temporary incinerator that began operation in April 1991 is being replaced by a new commercially built one.
 -- Processed and removed from the continent as hazardous waste 14 transformers filled with oil that possibly contained PCBs; developed plans to remove another 13 transformers that do not contain PCBs.
 -- Installed maceration and dilution equipment for handling sewage and relocated a sewage run-off pipe 17 feet below low tide level.
 -- Detonated 76 pounds of outdated, unstable laboratory chemicals and more than 3,000 pounds of obsolete explosives at a remote site on the Ross Ice Shelf. The site is located 3 miles from the nearest inhabited area and 10 miles from the sea, where the nearest wildlife is found.
 -- Crushed and removed from the continent 36 containers of clean metal waste. Each container holds 2,560 cubic feet of debris.
 -- Began operating a "tub grinder" in January 1992 to process construction waste.
 -- Removed from the continent 1,500 55-gallon drums of contaminated fuel, organic solvents and acids/bases.
 -- Completed removal of asbestos from a storage building formerly used as a seawater distillation plant.
 -0- 3/18/92
 /CONTACT: Rebecca Bell or Michael Fluharty of the National Science Foundation, 202-357-9498/ CO: National Science Foundation ST: District of Columbia IN: SU:


DC-MH -- DC015 -- 9257 03/18/92 12:54 EST
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Date:Mar 18, 1992
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