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Tiny microbes may solve large problems of water contamination, says Prof Esta van Heerden
2014-12-08

Small solutions for big problems

According to Prof Esta van Heerden, professor in the Department of Microbial, Biochemical and Food Biotechnology at the University of the Free State (UFS), this might hold some truth in current terms of water treatment strategies for waste and industrial effluents.

“There is little doubt in popular literature that eminent water crises are looming, not only with respect to the supply, but quality and effectiveness of various treatment options as well. The UFS’s Department of Microbial, Biochemical and Food Biotechnology is partnering with the Technology Innovation Agency to evaluate water treatment technologies that are applied worldwide and to extend these new or adapted options to innovative and interested clients in South Africa,” says Prof Van Heerden.

“The research focuses on using extreme microbes to tackle big contaminations and the results are amazing,” says Prof Van Heerden.

These microbes are fast becoming the stars on sites and developing these exciting systems allows for greener treatment options. It is fascinating that they can deal with metals, including chromium and uranium, cyanide, petroleum and diesel.

Of utmost importance is the development of a treatment for acid mine drainage.

“Interests have been overwhelming and thus far partners have allowed pilot scale development on their sites with very promising results. These initiatives are driven by responsible partners who strive to be innovative and develop sustainable technologies for good quality water that can be released in the environment,” Prof Van Heerden says.

The research group has set up a pipeline to serve the water communities’ needs. It provides an accessible toolkit for water analysis. A tailor-made treatment option is also developed and showcased in the laboratories. It has the added benefit that Geosyntec Consultants, USA, will ensure faster roll-out by sharing their vast experience on any related aspects.

 

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