CUT researchers explore the concentration of emerging contaminants in Mangaung water

Engineering, Built Environment and Information Technology CUT News Research and Innovation
CUT researchers explore the concentration of emerging contaminants in Mangaung water

The CUT Centre for Sustainable Smart Cities and various stakeholders supply water to Mangaung Metro at the technical workshop exploring emerging contaminants found in the Modder River.

The CUT Centre for Sustainable Smart Cities hosted a technical workshop exploring the investigation and monitoring of emerging contaminants from point sources on the Modder River catchment system in the Free State. The objective is to capacitate the technical staff and significant players of the catchment and those in charge of Mangaung water sources about emerging contaminants in the region's water sources and to identify the potential ecological and health risks.

Emerging contaminants (ECs) are pollutants of growing concern, i.e., chemicals of a synthetic origin or deriving from a natural source that has recently been discovered and for which environmental or public health risks are yet to be established. Those found the water tested included steroid hormones, licit and illicit drugs, pesticides, and pharmaceuticals such as carbamazepine and ibuprofen.

According to Prof. Saheed Oke, Associate Professor: Civil Engineering, over 80,000 organic chemicals are released annually into the environment from domestic activities, agricultural applications, and industrial manufacturing. “Environmental pollution has become the symbol of human existence ever since the industrial revolution with contaminants commonly in the limelight including toxic heavy metals such as lead and cadmium, petroleum hydrocarbons, polyaromatic hydrocarbons, certain pesticides, and asbestos. Humanity regularly uses a wide-ranging group of man-made organic compounds for domestic activities, agricultural applications, industrial manufacturing, as well as human and animal healthcare,” said Prof. Oke.

Civil Engineering and Built Environment Lecturer, Dr. Samson Senbore, added that the study area was based at the Modder River in the Mangaung Metropolitan Municipality. 

“The Modder River serves as a major source of water supply in the Mangaung metropolis, supplying almost 60% of the portable water in this region. The main tributaries are The Bloemspruit, Kgabanyane, Klein-Modder, Rusfontein and Sepane River. Modder River has its source near Dewetsdorp, which flows northwesterly and then turns westerly until it joins the Riet River at Ritchie. These tributaries are the major carriers of contaminants from urban areas. Generally, the sum of contaminants was high during the Spring with pesticides being the most persistent compounds,” explained Dr. Senbore.

Mr. Innocent Mugudamani stated that based on the source apportionment results in this study, emerging contaminants in the Modder River catchment are generally released mainly because of anthropogenic activities such as wastewater effluents, urban stormwater runoff, agricultural runoff, domestic sewage, and illegal dumping. 

 “The environmental health effects include endocrine disorders, reduced reproductive rates, reduced life expectancy and the disruption of red and white blood cells, and insomnia. Pesticides have dermatological, gastrointestinal, respiratory, reproductive, and endocrine effects. Steroid Hormones expand fish livers, cause breast, cervical, and ovarian cancer, infertility, enlarged prostate, reduced sperm count, and cause obesity.” 

The researchers are exploring potential solutions to this problem, including using Granulated Activated Carbon which can be used with trickling filter tanks in wastewater treatment before or during sedimentation in water treatment plants.

Uploaded: 10 November 2023
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