Desperate need for SANS 30500 certification scheme | Infrastructure news

Due to the high level of South African representation on the international panel that supported the creation of ISO 30500, we were one of the first countries in the world to identically adopt the standard as SANS 30500 in 2019. However, setting up a certification scheme has remained a challenge.

By Kirsten Kelly

There are many non-sewered sanitation systems (NSSS) that exist worldwide, yet even today, there has been no technology that has been certified against ISO 30500.

“This is due to the stringent requirements of the standard as well as the costs associated with testing. Moreover, laboratories which would be responsible for testing need to be SANAS 17025 accredited. It is expensive to get accredited and maintain that accreditation. From a capacity point of view, we have found that the laboratories which are SANAS accredited do not typically have capacity for testing NSSS and currently do not see the business case as there is very little demand for NSSS testing. On the other hand, laboratories which have capacity to measure most of the parameters required for NSSS testing reside at universities and research institutions and are not SANAS accredited. This is a stumbling block when developing a certification scheme,” says Dr Preyan Arumugam-Nanoolal, research scientist at the Water, Sanitation & Hygiene Research & Development (WASH R&D) Centre, University of KwaZulu-Natal.

 “Furthermore, there needs to be a critical mass – enough technologies need to be certified to justify the cost embedded into becoming a third-party certifier of SANS 30500. They are linked to each other – market acceptance of NSSS is driven by SANS 30500 certified products and SANS 30500 certification will likely only happen once there is a large volume of technologies which are certification ready,” she adds.

Promising developments

A substantial amount of work was done on ISO 30500 prior to the launch of the standard development processes at the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). TÜV SÜD – a global leader in product testing and certification – and the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) were tasked with drafting a pre-standard that could serve as a basis for the ISO standard.

Currently, ISO 30500 tests can be conducted by TÜV-SÜD in Singapore and they have been identified as the certification body to drive ISO 30500. A training programme on the standard was recently hosted by TÜV-SÜD and they are providing advice to South Africa on how to set up the certification scheme. “Parts of the standard are very specific and raise a number of questions around technical issues, testing and feasibility. There are plans underway to train all South African stakeholders,” explains Arumugam-Nanoolal.

TÜV-SÜD have also developed an ISO 30500 certification readiness index which provides technology developers with a self-assessment of their technology and its readiness for certification against the standard. It is based online, whereby technology developers need to answer various questions, the first of which is to ascertain if the technology is a NSSS and fits within IS0 30500. It also includes questions around various thresholds and parameters which help assess if the technology complies with the standard.

“We are looking at developing something similar that can assist technology developers in determining if they are ready to be certified. They can then avoid the excessive costs involved in repeatedly submitting variations of the NSSS technology for certification. It will also further guide technology developers in creating NSSS that meet the criteria found in SANS 30500,” states Dr Preyan Arumugam-Nanoolal.

Locally, UKZN is assisting Agrément with creating the certification scheme. “The certification scheme will be based on performance criteria that is dictated by SANS 30500 and then developed on the certification processes of Agrément. Databases of technical experts and laboratory partners have been prepared. A specialist is needed for each category of testing who would be responsible for signing off on testing reports,” explains Arumugam-Nanoolal.

To further support SANS 30500, the Department of Water and Sanitation has developed a Sanitation Technology Technical Coordinating Committee (STTCC). The function of the STTCC is to facilitate the development of a process to assess and validate appropriate sanitation technologies and aid in their certification and accreditation and guide the adoption and commercialisation of these technologies .

“While DWS can make recommendations regarding certain technologies, it is ultimately the municipality’s choice with regard to the type of sanitation solutions that will be implemented,” says Arumugam-Nanoolal.

Importance of ISO 30500 and a certification scheme

Previously, municipalities had been confronted with new sanitation technology but because there was no national standard, the onus and responsibility were placed on public officials to provide the guidance and position in terms of validating these technologies. It also disadvantaged many good solution providers from entering the market.

Since the creation of SANS 30500, manufacturers are provided with strategic guidance that reduces costs by minimising waste and errors, increasing productivity and facilitating free and fair trade. Products that have gone through the certification scheme will give assurance to governments, regulators and end-users that the non-sewered facilities they use are safe, reliable and of good quality.

“The certification scheme and standard will permit the creation of a new market with a lot of innovative NSSS and will reduce drastically the diseases linked to a lack of sanitation. It is the first step toward the development of a local circular economy with the transformation of human wastes into valuable resources. Importantly, the standard and the scheme are about capacity building. It’s the opportunity to identify laboratories and build capacity in terms of instrumentation and skills. In addition, it will build awareness around not just the standard, but the entire sanitation space, to spark innovation in South Africa,” concludes Dr Arumugam-Nanoolal.

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