A clear approach to the global threat of contamination

Friday, 9 June 2017


In a commitment to furthering research into the global-threat of contamination, the University of Newcastle (UON) has today unveiled a $15 million world-leading lab facility dedicated to finding better ways to assess, manage, clean up and prevent environmental contamination.

“Research shows chemical contamination is as much of a threat to society as climate change, with more than 160,000 contaminated sites estimated in Australia and 5 million worldwide,” said Professor Ravi Naidu, Global Innovation Chair and Director of UON’s Global Centre for Environmental Remediation (GCER).

The new facility, featuring world-class equipment found in few laboratories around the world, aims to develop innovative, cost-effective and sustainable technologies and solutions that reduce the impact of pollutants on the environment and human health.

Professor Naidu, who is also CEO and Managing Director of the Cooperative Research Centre for Contamination Assessment and Remediation of the Environment (CRC CARE), said the critical issue of environmental remediation – which was often misunderstood due to its complex nature – should be at the forefront of the global agenda.

“Cleaning up contaminated land and water costs our nation more than $3 billion every year. Aside from this, areas of potentially valuable land remain unusable and a possible health risk to the communities around them.

“Everyone on this planet is affected by the quality of our soil, water and air. It’s estimated that nearly 13 million people die annually from exposure to unhealthy environments, so I am thrilled UON is taking the next steps to invest in the resources to secure the future of our environment,” he explained.

Working in conjunction with UON’s Newcastle Institute for Energy and Resources (NIER) at Callaghan campus, the new facility comprises seven state-of-the-art laboratories that span microbiology, wet chemistry, material science, chemical analysis, remediation and heat testing.

Projects being undertaken include remediation of contaminated aquifers and wastewater, crop testing for toxic metal exposure, management of mining waste and derelict mines, and the impact of carcinogenic contaminants on the environment and human health.

Professor Naidu, whose own career in environmental remediation has led to an exponential increase in the number of people working in the field, said UON’s work at both a global and local level is making its mark.

“Our commitment is evident in our strong connections with industry and government around the world. We are making great progress and I hope the valuable work happening in Newcastle will continue to translate into real-world solutions.”

The new facility will further support CRC CARE and the newly established Cooperative Research Centre for High Performance Soils (CRC HPS).