Biosand Filters (BSF) are low-cost, low maintenance, point-of-use filters that are built out of locally available materials. The Arsenic Biosand Filter (ABSF) is a version of the BSF that is designed to remove arsenic and pathogens present in the groundwater.
High levels of arsenic in the groundwater in China are a major public health concern. In addition to a fairly widespread volume of naturally occurring arsenic-contaminated well-water across China, a significant amount of arsenic is contributed by anthropogenic actions like rapid industrialization, weak environmental policies and poor planning. Cases of chronic arsenicosis have been found in eight provinces in mainland China, including Shanxi. The highest arsenic levels in drinking water lie between 0.05 and 2 mg/L, dangerously higher than the WHO-recommended level of 0.01 mg/L (Mukherjee et al., 2006). Rodríguez-Lado et al (2013) estimate that close to 20 million people are at risk of being affected by the consumption of arsenic-contaminated groundwater in China.
At the University of Michigan (click here for a more in depth, we built a prototype of an ABSF design with the intent of replicating the contamination and filtration scenario in Shanxi, testing our filter and further optimizing our design. At Pingyao – Shanxi, we worked with our student partner organization, the Rural International Student Exchange (RISE) group from Tsinghua University and a student group from the Taiyuan University of Technology to implement another design variant of the ABSF in a village. We successfully built 43 ABSFs in individual households, and initial performance tests showed that the ABSFs were able to remove up to 87% of arsenic, relative to the arsenic content of the inflowing water, while minimizing the turbidity of the water.
Current and ongoing research entails the periodic testing of the filters’ performance to ensure arsenic removal is stable and continuously available. Additionally, we are currently researching the perceived risk of arsenic in the community and the feasibility of incorporating bioremediation (Vidali, 2001) in our water treatment system. Our project has received seed funding from the Dow Distinguished Awards for Interdisciplinary work.
To see a photo gallery of previous trips click here.
Contact: Rashmi Krishnan (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Mukherjee, A., Sengupta, M. K., Hossain, M. A., Ahamed, S., Das, B., Nayak, B., … Chakraborti, D. (2006). Arsenic contamination in groundwater: A global perspective with emphasis on the Asian scenario. Journal of Health, Population and Nutrition.
Rodríguez-Lado, L., Sun, G., Berg, M., Zhang, Q., Xue, H., Zheng, Q., & Johnson, C. A. (2013). Groundwater arsenic contamination throughout China. Science (New York, N.Y.), 341(6148), 866–8. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23970694
Vidali, M. (2001). Bioremediation. An overview. Pure and Applied Chemistry,73(7), 1163-1172.