March 15, 2016
Jamaica is now home to the region’s first wastewater treatment and management research and training facility, which is housed at the University of Technology, Jamaica (UTech) campus in St. Andrew.
The UTech’s Wastewater Management Centre, built at a cost of $62 million, was officially launched and opened on Monday (March 14).
The state-of-the-art facility will support the development of environmental and biomass research and innovation projects. It falls under the Faculty of Engineering and Computing.
Acting President of UTech, Professor Colin Gyles, said the opening of the facility “represents an advancement in the thrust that we are trying to focus on as a university, that is, to strengthen research and training in keeping with national development goals.”
He said that while the university has been offering courses for wastewater treatment and management for many years, this centre “is taking it to another level, because now we have laboratories that will facilitate research in this very important area.”
Dean of the Faculty of Engineering and Computing, Professor Nilza Smith, said the centre is intended to provide UTech with a unique treatment plant facility to support undergraduate and graduate programmes, providing a hands-on approach to wastewater management.
“The centre aims to be the heart of a larger outreach programme to Jamaica and other Caribbean countries by providing a diverse suite of services such as training, risk assessment, hazardous waste treatment disposal, waste minimisation studies, wastewater treatment plant evaluation (and so on),” she informed.
In his remarks, Programme Officer, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Caribbean Environment Programme, Christopher Corbin, said he is pleased that the centre will allow for greater research into the management and treatment of wastewater, which is critical to protecting environmental and human health.
“I am particularly happy with the focus on the training and the laboratory capacity…we cannot manage what we cannot monitor, and we need to be able to monitor our treatment effluent, our sewage effluent to be able to determine how we, in fact, can manage it in an appropriate way,” he said.
President of the National Water Commission (NWC), Mark Barnett, also welcomed the establishment of the centre and expressed the hope that “it will go a far way in advancing knowledge and disseminating information relating to waste management, and serve to offer integrated solutions that promote the economic benefits of waste management for Jamaica.”
The centre was born out of the initiative of UTech’s Waste Management Group (WMG) formed in 1999.
A suite of training programmes to support national and regional capacity building in the area of wastewater management have been developed in partnership with WMG. They consist of modules for operators, managers, engineers, regulators and laboratory technicians.
The operator’s programme started in 2014 and offers a dual certification from UTech and California State University. To date, 85 operators have been trained in Jamaica. The manager’s programme will be offered in collaboration with the University of Monterrey in Mexico through face-to-face and online courses.
The programmes were developed in collaboration with the Global Environment Facility-funded Caribbean Regional Fund for Wastewater Management (CReW), NWC and the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA).
The facility comprises three testing laboratories: Environmental Engineering; Microbiology/Biotechnology; and a special equipment laboratory. The labs are currently being prepared for accreditation to ISO/IEC-17025:2005.