As the Western Cape battles a critical water shortage the research conducted by Prof Vernon Somerset, a leading researcher in Environmental Chemistry, has become ever more urgent.
Somerset recently joined the Chemistry Department, and holding a NRF-C3 rating he joins the ranks of high profile researchers and innovators at CPUT who are using their skills to address the numerous challenges facing local communities, South Africa and the rest of the continent. Describing water as a fascinating field, Somerset says ultimately all his research work is aimed at ensuring South Africa’s water resources are adequately protected and that communities have access to safe drinking water.
“This research is important, because nationally we don’t have a lot of water and on the other hand we have a lot of mining and agriculture activities, which impacts on our water resources. The more we know about the impact of these anthropogenic activities, the better we can advise. There is also the area of emerging pollutants, such as pharmaceutical and personal care products, xenobiotics, antimicrobials, endocrine disruptors, etc. We are becoming much more aware of these components. It’s important for us to know more about it so that we can protect our water resources and safe guard people from being exposed to these pollutants,” he says.
Hailing from the highly respected Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, Somerset, who has a PhD in Electro-analytical Chemistry from UWC, will drive environmental related research that has an impact on aquatic ecosystems and human health at CPUT. While based at the CSIR he has also investigated the fate and transport of heavy metals in the freshwater ecosystems of South Africa, especially the global pollutant called mercury. He is currently involved with other researchers across the country, assisting the Department of Environmental Affairs with South Africa’s ratification of the Minimata Convention on mercury.
Somerset says he looks forward to training the next generation of researchers.
“I’m here because we need to make sure that students are trained adequately and are equipped to apply their knowledge of environmental chemistry to protect the environment for future generations.”