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WSU researcher combats pollution in Antarctica

Mar 20, 2020
WSU researcher combats pollution in Antarctica

A Chemical Technician at the Walter Sisulu University based National Pollution Laboratory, Lonwabo Nettie, has returned from his environmental research quest to change protocol and prevent pollution in Antarctica.

Nettie’s aim was to root out any source of pollutants near the South African National Antarctic Expedition (SANAE IV) base as a results of research activities conducted at the South African Antarctic research base located in Vesleskarvet, Queen Maud Land.

Nettie probed heavy metal and entrapped organic compounds around the SANAE IV base that is part of the South African National Antarctic Program (SANAP) and is operated by the South African National Antarctic Expedition

“South Africa’s continued participation in Antarctica will allow for continued collection of data by the South African Weather Services (SAWS) and South African National Space Agency (SANSA), whose data goes a long way in predicting the day to day weather in our country and understanding natural phenomenon,” said Nettie.

In-line with global efforts to reduce climate change, Netties research will go a long way in addition to the world’s concerted effort towards a greener approach to science and industrialisation.

“The investigation will assist in determining whether the activities being done on the base have a direct impact on the surroundings over time and to what effect,” he said.

Nettie outlined the grid sampling processes used to obtain the sample around the base which will then be analysed using GC-MS for organic compound identification and quantification and ICP-MS for heavy metal quantification.

“We are basically investigating if there any type of chemical pollutants, often in the form of heavy metals and organic compounds, around the SANAE IV base.

South Africa is a member of the Antarctic treaty which also commits to the use of the continent for research purposes and keeping the environment as pristine as when we arrived,” he said.

He added that visual evaluation had been and is still being done, however, none that can actually tell you what is the pollutant and how much of it is present in the area.

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

Image: Lonwabo Nettie in Antarctica

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