Engineering students work on cleaning water

Despite the drought, students witnessed the large volumes of rubbish being carried downstream at a litter trap on the Sandriver just outside the Zandvlei Nature Reserve.

Some American university students worked on two projects to clean water after meeting with a Westlake-based environmental education trust earlier this year.

Dr Anthony Roberts, the CEO of the Cape Town Environmental Education Trust (CTEET), said the design engineering students from the Illinois University focused on the projects after hearing about various environmental and social problems in the country.

The first project was to look at various options for litter traps to reduce the amount of river-borne waste entering the Zandvlei and Zeekoevlei wetlands.

“This required in-depth research into methodologies and structures in other parts of the world – with the final outcome having to be one that was sturdy and yet was not easily vandalised or stolen for the scrap trade,” said Dr Roberts.

The students saw traps that had already been installed in Cape Town, which had helped them to identify design faults.

“Despite the current drought there was still sufficient water flowing within the canal systems for the students to witness the large volumes of rubbish being carried downstream to the wetlands,” he said.

The second project was for the students to come up with a cheap and easy way to clean grey water in informal settlements.

“Dr Roberts’s focus was on conservation, utilising water without contaminating the environment,” said student instructor Valeri Werpetinski.

The result was a system of three buckets, one filled with wood chips and a second one with sand. The third collects the filtered water.

“It’s an affordable system that can last for a number of months. Also, the more it is used the more active the micro-organisms that break down the fats and food particles become, yielding a water that is suitable for use in vegetable gardens,” said Dr Roberts.

“We hope that in due course we will be able to implement their ideas,” he said.