This study examined the effects of anthropogenic contaminants and environmental variables on the composition of benthic diatom communities within a contaminated bay adjacent to an abandoned waste disposal site in Antarctica. The combination of geographical, environmental and chemical data included in the study explained all of the variation observed within the diatom communities. The chemical data, particularly metal concentrations, explained 45.9% of variation in the diatom communities, once the effects of grain-size and spatial structure had been excluded. Of the metals, tin explained the greatest proportion of variation in the diatom communities (28%). Tin was very highly correlated (R2 > 0.95) with several other variables (copper, iron, lead, and sum of metals), all of which explained similarly high proportions of total variation. Grain-size data explained 23% of variation once the effects of spatial structure and the chemical data had been excluded. The pure spatial component explained only 1.8% of the total variance. The study demonstrates that much of the compositional variability observed in the bay can be explained by concentrations of metal contaminants.