04 Mar 2016
Sustainable, Scalable Arsenic Treatment using ECAR
Close to 100 million people in Bangladesh and India drink water contaminated with toxic levels of naturally occurring arsenic. Many household and community scale treatment methods have been tried, but often quickly fail because they’re not maintained, repaired, accepted, or affordable. Thus “the largest mass poisoning of a human population in history” persists, now three decades after its discovery.
The Gadgil Lab at the University of California, Berkeley and Lawrence Berkeley National Lab has developed and patented Electro-Chemical Arsenic Remediation (ECAR) technology to meet international drinking water quality standards for arsenic while supporting a sustainable and scalable business model.In ECAR, a highly effective iron-based adsorbent is generated in situ when a small voltage is applied (via solar or intermittent grid) to ordinary steel plates in arsenic contaminated water. Arsenic-III (more toxic and difficult to remove) is oxidized to arsenic-V during the process.This in situ process is:
ECAR performance has been verified using “worst-case” synthetic groundwater and real groundwater from Bangladesh, India, and Cambodia (Fig 2a). Field trials have increased in scale from 100L up to a 600L batch ECAR system (5500 liter per day capacity, see photo below) tested at Dhapdhapi High School in West Bengal, Indiain 2012-2013 (Fig 2b).’ECAR recent publications’ contain more detail. Our active research areas include the safe stabilization of arsenic-laden sludge in concrete and simultaneous removal of arsenic and pathogens. The continuing development of ECAR has been generously supported by many diverse sources, including Blum Center for Developing Economies, Development Impact Lab -part of the USAID Higher Education Solutions Network, UPEI at Jadavpur University (JU), University Grants Commission (UGC), ICSSR, US EPA’s P3 Program, Indo-US Science and Technology Forum, and the UC Office of the President (see website for further contributions).We are grateful to the Headmasters and School Management of Dhapdhapi High School, South 24 Parganas and Amirabad High School, Murshidabad (both in West Bengal, India) for generous support during field trials.
ECAR technology was exclusively licensed for India and Bangladesh by Luminous Water Technologies Pvt. Ltd (LWT) in 2013. We are currently collaborating to conduct a field trial of a 10,000 liter per day capacity ECAR system in West Bengal, India. The UC Berkeley team is also developing ECAR as an affordable and simple arsenic treatment solution for rural areas in the US.