[ASC-media] Media release: Australia leads toxic pollution clean-up

JCA Media jca.media at starclass.com.au
Tue Nov 14 09:40:51 CET 2006

Cooperative Research Centre for Contamination 
Assessment and Remediation of the Environment

Media Release
November 15, 2006

Australia leads toxic pollution clean-up

Australia is taking a leading role in the global battle against soil, water and air contamination with the launch of a national scientific and industrial alliance, the Cooperative Research Centre for Contamination Assessment and Remediation of the Environment - CRC CARE.

CRC CARE is being launched in Adelaide today by the Minister for Finance and Administration, Senator Nick Minchin, at the University of South Australia's Mawson Lakes campus from 11.30 am.

Managing Director for the CRC, Professor Ravi Naidu, says the CRC CARE will play a leading role nationally and internationally in protecting against and correcting environmental problems related to contamination.

"Australia has more than 100,000 potentially contaminated sites and the cost of clean-up is estimated at well over $5 billion and our neighbours in Asia have an estimated three million sites that need attention," Professor Naidu said. 

"This pollution of our soil, water and air poses a recognised risk to human health. It has been implicated in poisonings, cancer and other diseases. Science has also revealed that contamination is moving round the planet - showing up not just in our cities and food, but even at the poles and in deep oceans. Contamination can also impact on our trade especially given Australia's push for clean and green image."

"Australia's new contamination science centre of excellence, CRC CARE, is finding the best ways to assess the risks and develop tailored solutions to toxic pollution, solutions that are safe and affordable."

Professor Naidu said the CRC was helping Australian industry to become world leaders in the management and prevention of contamination and our regulators to set global standards of excellence in risk assessment and clean-up.

CRC CARE brings together scientific, industry and government organisations to devise new ways of dealing with and preventing contamination of soil, water and air. 

Its goals include:
o	cleaner, safer food supplies, water  and living conditions for all leading to a reduced toll of disease due to toxic contamination of our food, water, air and living conditions;
o	benefits of up to $1.8 billion per year from direct savings in remediation and improved clean-land values;
o	a cleaner natural environment for Australia and its neighbours.

"Australia has a real shortage of people who have skills in environmental risk assessment and remediation and right now if we need these skills, we often have this talent from America or Europe," Prof. Naidu said. 

"One of the Centre's most valuable contributions will be to train a generation of young Australians in the skills needed to overcome and prevent the problems of contamination."

Another major feature of the new CRC is its export focus. A node is being set up in the People's Republic of China to act as a technology transfer bridgehead, helping China cope with growing challenge of contamination as it industrialises.

"This is one of a number of global partnerships that the CRC CARE is forging as part of our plan to build a new export industry in environmental risk-assessment and clean-up technology and skills," Prof Naidu said.

"The breadth of our scientific and industrial partnerships positions us perfectly to help Australian industry capture global markets for advanced risk assessment and clean-up technologies."

CRC CARE Pty Ltd participants are: 
Aglient Technologies Pty Ltd; Alcoa Australia; Australian Institute of Petroleum; Capital Technic Group Ltd; WA Chemistry Centre;CH2MHILL; Coffey Environments Pty Ltd; Curtin University of Technology; Commonwealth Department of Defence; Department of Primary Industries, Victoria; Environmental Protection Authority of SA; Environmental Protection Authority of Victoria; Gutteridge Haskins Davey; HLM Asia Capital Ltd; Rio Tinto Ltd; Sensoron Corporation; Southern Cross University; The University of Queensland; the University of South Australia; URLC Victoria; WA Department of the Environment; University of Technology Sydney, and Worsley Alumina.

Key speaker details:
o	11.40am welcome from UniSA Vice Chancellor Professor Denise Bradley
o	11.43am Professor Ravi Naidu managing director of CRC CARE
o	11.48am Dr Rod Lukatelich Environmental Manager BP Refinery (Kwinana) Pty Ltd
o	11.51am Adjunct Professor Paul Perkins, Chairman CRC CARE
o	11.53am official launch by the Minister, Senator Minchin.

Contact for interview: Professor Ravi Naidu office 08 8302 5041 mobile 0407 720 257 
Media contact: Kim Sinclair office 08 8302 3933 mobile 0429 779 228 email Kim.sinclair at crccare.com


CRC CARE brings together scientific researchers and educators, industry, investors and government to ensure Australia builds and maintains its capacity as a world-leader in the field of contamination assessment and clean-up.

The problems

o	Biomonitoring conducted internationally demonstrates that, every person on earth carries a toxic burden of contamination as a result of the more than 100 years of industrial development. Many unwanted byproducts of past industrial, agricultural and mineral activities are still in circulation such as heavy metals, trace elements, organics, carcinogens and other contaminants in our soils, water and air. Scientists suspect that an increase in cancers and degenerative disorders may, to some degree, be linked to our continued exposure to past contaminants which linger in our environment.

o	Polar ice-cores and samples taken from Arctic people and polar wildlife reveal a steady build-up of heavy metals, Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), Polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and other persistent organic pollutants (POPs) as the problem spreads from industrialized regions via the global circulation. POPs are nicknamed "poisons without passports" because they ride around on air and sea currents without breaking down 

o	Earlier industrial, extraction and purification processes in all countries have left behind waste streams, many of which contain toxic substances and these are spreading, invisibly.  

o	Past the practices have been to fence off sites containing contaminants, seal them in, or dig them up and move them elsewhere. This has merely deferred the problem for future generations to deal with.

The solutions
o	The new approach of contamination risk assessment and remediation pioneered in Australia through CRC CARE is to understand what the contamination consists of; how contaminants interact with the soil, water other man-made and natural substances; and with living organisms to form "daughter" or evolved products.

o	Then it enables us to work out if these substances still pose a risk to humans or the environment, and whether they can reach us through water, dust or the food chain.

o	CRC CARE is a world leader in developing the concept of bioavailability - the ability to measure the likely impact of various forms of contamination on forms of life and particularly people.

o	Getting the measure of toxins in the environment helps to make decisions about how they are managed. If it is found that contaminants in a site cannot reach the population, or have become harmless with time, then there is no need to resort to costly remediation measures.

o	Alternatively, if the contaminants are still active, the CRC is developing many new and original ways to remove or neutralise them - from natural micro-organisms that chop them up to designer clays that lock them up, from trees and shrubs which "mine" them to electrodes which extract them - all far safer and less costly than the old dig-and-dump methods.

o	We know from examples such as Sydney's Homebush Bay that if you clean up a formerly-contaminated site, you can add spectacularly to its value. By providing the technologies to clean up sites across Australia, it is estimated the CRC can provide an enhanced capital return of between $600m and $1.8 billion. And more savings can be made by using cheaper, more effective methods and the new products, companies and exports that grow out of the science.

o	Because CRC CARE is in partnership not only with industry, but also with environmental regulators, it offers the opportunity to attune our laws to the latest and best technologies - to set world standards not only in treatment and remediation, but also in regulation - while industry in turn has every opportunity to meet them through access to the technology.

o	The CRC is also helping industry to eliminate substances from its waste streams which are likely to cause contamination in the future - either by isolating them and rendering them harmless, or by processing them into safe but useful and commercially saleable byproducts. The goal is to develop a "zero waste" partnership.

The future
o	CRC CARE is helping to build a new industry cluster of companies specializing in contamination assessment and clean-up, and the export of those technologies and skills. This cluster to be launched at Australia's First National Contamination Summit, to be held here in Adelaide, in June 2007, hosted by the CRC.

o	The market for these technologies is huge. Germany estimates it has 363,000 contaminated sites, Switzerland 50,000, New Zealand 8000 industrial sites and around 50,000 sheep dips, Hungary 25,000 known sites, South Korea 29,000. India produces 7.2 million tonnes of hazardous waste a year. Asia as a whole is thought to have about three million contaminated sites.

o	The CRC is already building strong links with industry and researchers in countries such as the US, the UK, China, India, South Korea, Switzerland and Spain.

o	The CRC recently finished negotiations in China to train 100 post graduates in these skills over five years - to bring them to Australia to broaden their expertise in this field and become users of our technologies in future.

o	In Australia the CRC is proposing to train 1000 industry professionals and 75 PhDs in the field over seven years.

More information: Professor Ravi Naidu office: 08 8302 5041 mobile: 0407 720 257 email:Ravi.naidu at crccare.com

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