The University of Venda based South African Research Chair in Biodiversity and Change in the Vhembe Biosphere Reserve is a vibrant hub for biodiversity science, training and conservation application in the Southern African Development Community – a body of established and emerging researchers, postgraduate and postdoctoral candidates. The Research Chair, co-hosted by the Centre for Invasion Biology at the University of Stellenbosch, is funded by the Department of Science and Technology and administered by the National Research Foundation.
Home » Publications » Assessment of Heavy Metals in Municipal Sewage Sludge: A Case Study of Limpopo Province, South Africa.
Heavy metals in high concentrations can cause health and environmental damage. Nanosilver is an emerging heavy metal which has a bright future of use in many applications. Here we report on the levels of silver and other heavy metals in municipal sewage sludge. Five towns in Limpopo province of South Africa were selected and the sludge from their wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) was collected and analysed. The acid digested sewage sludge samples were analysed using Inductively Coupled Plasma-Optical Emission Spectroscopy (ICP-OES) and Inductively Coupled Plasma-Mass Spectrometry (ICP-MS) methods. The concentrations of silver found were low, but significant, in the range 0.22 to 21.93 mg/kg dry mass. The highest concentration of silver was found in Louis Trichardt town with a concentration of 21.93 ± 0.38 mg/kg dry mass while the lowest was Thohoyandou with a concentration of 6.13 ± 0.12 mg/kg dry mass. A control sludge sample from a pit latrine had trace levels of silver at 0.22 ± 0.01 mg/kg dry mass. The result showed that silver was indeed present in the wastewater sewage sludge and at present there is no DWAF guideline standard. The average Cd concentration was 3.10 mg/kg dry mass for Polokwane municipality. Polokwane and Louis Trichardt municipalities exhibited high levels of Pb, in excess DWAF guidelines, in sludge at 102.83 and 171.87 mg/kg respectfully. In all the WWTPs the zinc and copper concentrations were in excess of DWAF guidelines. The presence of heavy metals in the sewage sludge in excess of DWAF guidelines presents environmental hazards should the sludge be applied as a soil ameliorant.