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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Design of a rural water provision system to decrease arsenic exposure in Bangladesh


Researchers at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have invented ARUBA (Arsenic Removal Using Bottom Ash) a material that effectively and affordably removes high concentrations of arsenic from contaminated groundwater. The technology is cost-effective because the substrate?bottom ash from coal fired power plants?is a waste material readily available in South Asia. During fieldwork in four sub-districts of Bangladesh, ARUBA reduced groundwater arsenic concentrations as high as 680 ppb to below the Bangladesh standard of 50 ppb. Key results from three trips in Bangladesh and one trip to Cambodia include (1) ARUBA removes more than half of the arsenic from contaminated water within the first five minutes of contact, and continues removing arsenic for 2-3 days; (2) ARUBA?s arsenic removal efficiency can be improved through fractionated dosing (adding a given amount of ARUBA in fractions versus all at once); (3) allowing water to first stand for two to three days followed by treatment with ARUBA produced final arsenic concentrations ten times lower than treating water directly out of the well; and (4) the amount of arsenic removed per gram of ARUBA is linearly related to the initial arsenic concentration of the water. Through analysis of existing studies, observations, and informal interviews in Bangladesh, eight design strategies have been developed and used in the design of a low-cost, community-scale water treatment system that uses ARUBA to remove arsenic from drinking water. We have constructed, tested, and analyzed a scale version of the system. Experiments have shown that the system is capable of reducing high levels of arsenic (nearly 600 ppb) to below 50 ppb, while remaining affordable to people living on less than $2 per day. The system could be sustainably implemented as a public-private partnership in rural Bangladesh.

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