Challenges and shortcomings in current South African industrial wastewater quality characterisation

  • Genevieve Harding Crystallization and Precipitation Unit, Department of Chemical Engineering, University of Cape Town, South Africa
  • Jemitias Chivavava Crystallization and Precipitation Unit, Department of Chemical Engineering, University of Cape Town, South Africa
  • Alison E Lewis Crystallization and Precipitation Unit, Department of Chemical Engineering, University of Cape Town, South Africa
Keywords: industrial wastewater, characterisation, water quality, access to information, South Africa, Promotion of Access to Information Act

Abstract

Previous research in South Africa has identified gaps in wastewater quality characterisation and remediation. Wastewater quality indicators need to be known in order to reuse, recycle, and/or recover resources, but are poorly reported for wastewater streams. Formal and relational approaches were used to access wastewater quality information. Relational approaches included building relationships with industry partners through telephone calls, emails and meetings, while formal approaches included requests for public documents and legal applications using the Promotion of Access to Information Act. Published data were another source of information. The following industries were identified as major wastewater generating industries: pulp and paper, fish processing, power generation, mining and petroleum. Seven parameters were commonly used to indicate quality: pH, volume, electrical conductivity, nitrogen, sulphate, sodium and chemical oxygen demand. Calcium was not measured, even though discharge limits are required in environmental licenses. The accessed wastewater quality data ranged from qualitative to quantitative. The number of parameters used varied within and between industries. Although wastewater information is non-confidential, in practice it is not readily available. There are opportunities to improve wastewater management and resource recovery; however, this needs to happen in an environment of trust and transparency. This is currently lacking between industry, government, and research bodies.

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Published
2020-04-29
Section
Research paper