Walter Sisulu University struck it lucky when they received an opportunity of a lifetime to host and manage the National Pollution Laboratory.

The Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) and WSU signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for WSU to host the National Pollution Laboratory as part of the Operation Phakisa Projects.

Dr Motebang Nakin, Acting Project Manager for the National Pollution Lab said, “The lab will monitor pollution in South African Coastal waters. South Africa is surrounded by 4 coastal provinces. So, the lab will be hosted here at WSU and have satellite labs in other three coastal provinces.

One of the purposes of this project is to reduce unemployment by unlocking opportunities in the ocean economy which will benefit unemployed youth in the different sites selected for this project.

“One of the objectives of Operation Phakisa projects is job creation; this project as well will create more jobs for people not only of the Eastern Cape but also in other coastal provinces, both professionals and non-professionals especially the youth, will be working in the lab and in different monitoring sites.”

The plan is to get the lab accredited by the South African National Accreditation System (SANAS) and become self sustainable.

Dr Thanduxolo Ntozakhe, Technical Manager and Principal Investigator said, “We are still preparing and writing Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) for the accreditation but it does not end there because SANAS does not accredit a plan, they accredit a running laboratory, therefore until we start operating in a month or two that is when we will continue finalising the accreditation.”

Dr Ntozakhe further explained that the lab will be of great value to the Science students as they will accept students for in-service training so that they get experience in the industry as there are a lot of students who struggle to get training after they have finished their course work.

Though the lab is not yet fully functional, sampling work has already begun as the lab technicians are already continuing with the work.

Miss Vuyokazi Momoti, Research Technician said, “I travelled to the Gough Island, a research base in the Southern Atlantic Ocean which is under Britain to do water testing, to check the quality of drinking water used by the people working for the South African weather station based there.”

She further stated that there were complaints about the drinking qualitywater there and DEA as funders, requested WSU to go there and do the testing as they are responsible for pollution monitoring in all of the South African coastal waters.

The self-sustainability plan of the lab will manifest when it has been SANAS accredited and started operating fully and generating revenue from the potential customers namely municipalities, researchers and private companies, amongst others.

-Anita Roji

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