Pollution Research Group Hosts Gates Foundation ManagerAgriculture, Engineering & Science

Members of UKZN’s Pollution Research Group with international research partners and local stakeholders at a planning workshop for the testing of innovative sanitation technologies.Members of UKZN’s Pollution Research Group with international research partners and local stakeholders at a planning workshop for the testing of innovative sanitation technologies.

The Pollution Research Group (PRG) in UKZN’s School of Engineering recently hosted programme manager from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF), Dr Carl Hensman, as well as other grantees to discuss the engineering testing of reinvented toilet prototypes in Durban.

The visit also included eThekwini’s Water and Sanitation unit (EWS), who work closely with the PRG in the implementation of their research.

The PRG is the recipient of a three-year capacity-building grant awarded by the BMGF in November 2014 that is enabling their work as sanitation practitioners in the field of faecal sludge management. This increase in capacity has included the upgrade of their laboratory on the Howard College campus to improve health and safety in its activities, an example of which is the extraction of nutrients from waste and waste storage.

In anticipation of increased research activities, it has also facilitated the expansion of their space for hosting visiting researchers and the purchase of new analytical equipment to enhance the analyses and tests they are able to undertake for other laboratories as well as their own.

The occasion, which involved visits to the aforementioned facilities, included international research partners from Cranfield University in the UK, the Research Triangle Institute (RTI), the University of South Florida, and Janickie Industries, all in the USA. In addition to PRG researchers and EWS representatives, representatives from the Water Research Commission (WRC) were also present.

Hensman was enthusiastic about PRG’s involvement, saying: ‘It’s a very exciting time as we bring together all these stakeholders to start creating a testing platform for a new generation of sanitation technologies which could also potentially help reduce the impact of sanitation on water use. UKZN’s PRG are globally recognised for their work, expertise and knowledge in the field of sanitation. Given the high demand for their attention, we are very lucky to have them as a core partner in this endeavour.’

Funding from the BMGF, specifically through its Water Sanitation & Hygiene (WSH) Transformative Technology portfolio, has played a role in supporting PRG. One key collaboration between PRG and BMGF-WSH has been the research into affordable sanitation systems that are convenient, produce a number of value products, operate independently of electrical, water and sewage grids and are asthetically desired by the user.

The PRG’s innovative research is concerned with the management of water resources, waste water reclamation, the impact of effluents on local environments, sanitation systems, faecal sludge management, and other water-related environmental issues.

The PRG’s research into these areas is focused through numerous projects, from the investigation of aerobic and anaerobic treatment of wastewater to agricultural applications to the management of wastewater in the soft drink industry, among others.

Christine Cuénod