Key words: Analytical; analysis; chemical; chemistry; education; environment; environmental; instrumentation; monitoring; training; water; water quality

Exmoor Environmental Services

For advice on and training in scientific methods for environmental monitoring

Site still under construction

The National Environmental Laboratory (NEL) of Mauritius is the official Government Laboratory and it duties include:

In 1998 the Robens Institute of the University of Surrey was contracted to upgrade the laboratory’s capabilities whereupon the Institute sub-contracted the chemistry component to Farnborough College of Technology. A colleague and I were assigned to visit the NEL with the aim of overhauling and assessing the analytical instrumentation and to discuss methodology. While my colleague dealt with much of the instrumentation, it fell to me to discuss methodology; although I did look at a FT infra-red spectrometer and a non-functioning polarograph. The FT/IR instrument suffered because it was only equipped for use with sodium chloride discs but the ambient humidity of Mauritius is sufficiently high to overwhelm the normal storage conditions of the discs. Therefore it was recommended that the laboratory invest in a reflectance module for the examination of samples. The polarograph, sadly, was an old instrument and beyond repair.

I returned to Mauritius, under the same programme, to discuss the problems of asbestos with Environmental Health Officers who were very concerned about the occurrence of the material. The major commercial activity on the island is the growing and processing of sugar cane and, at the time, large amounts of asbestos were to be found in the sugar mills, primarily for lagging pipes and vessels. Together we visited one such mill and it was obvious that the scale of the problem was worryingly high, although the authorities were showing little concern about the situation. In our discussions we talked about the diseases that asbestos can cause as well as the precautions that need to be taken when handling, removing and disposing of the mineral. Given the EHO’s concerns, we discussed  also, strategies for galvanising the authorities into action to deal with the matter.