James Farrell, University of Arizona
Khadjia Qureshi, Mehran University of Engineering and Technology
Pakistani Funding (HEC): $267,152
US Funding (Department of State): $130,916
Project Dates: November 15, 2010 - November 14, 2013 (Extended through Feb 28, 2014)
The presence of arsenic in groundwater causes severe health problems, and shallow subsurface aquifers and tube wells in Pakistan are often found to have arsenic levels above recommended limits set by the US Environmental Protection Agency. With the rapid population growth in Pakistan, available water resources are being exhausted, so there is a great need to find economical ways of treating groundwater to make it safe for use. The goal of this project is to determine the effectiveness of several low-cost iron ores as reactive adsorbent media for removing arsenic compounds from drinking water. Both lab-based and field-scale pilot testing will be performed to assess the long-term performance of the media under challenging operating conditions. In addition to identifying a more cost-effective method for arsenic removal, this research will also provide training for young Pakistani scientists that will enable them to address a variety of other problems associated with metal-contaminated drinking water, which is a crucial problem for Pakistan. While opening avenues for future collaborative research, academic improvement, and technology transfer, the project should ultimately benefit residents of Pakistan and other countries suffering from arsenic-related health hazards.
After a delay of nine months in processing Dr. Bhatti’s visa, Professors Khadija Qureshi and Inam Bhatti arrived in Tucson, Arizona on May 21, 2013 and began their six month period of laboratory research. They are working directly with a University of Arizona doctoral candidate Binod Chaudhary who has been working on the project since May 2013. Mr. Chaudhary has been instructing Professors Qureshi and Bhatti in the techniques that he developed to make ion exchange fibers for removing arsenic from potable water. This past year, he has found a simpler and more economical method of making the arsenic adsorbing fibers. In Pakistan, one PhD student and two MS students have been working on the project. Dr. Qureshi has developed a new method for making an adsorbent for removing arsenic from drinking water that can also be used as an anion or cation exchanger for removing other contaminants from water. Dr. Bhatti has developed a method for grafting polyacrylic acid onto polyacrylonitrile fabric. This special fabric has a high cation exchange capacity and can be used to remove hardness ions from water. Also by adsorbing iron oxide on the fabric, the adsorbent can remove arsenic from water. Key pieces of equipment delivered in the previous year were set-up and tested in the newly refurbished laboratory established with funds provided by the government of Pakistan. Training sessions to instruct students and professors in the use of the equipment were held throughout the year.
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2011 Show summary || Hide summary ||
On the Pakistani side activities have involved remodeling a laboratory to make it suitable for the installation of analytical equipment for detecting arsenic. Dr. Qureshi’s university has ordered a high-pressure liquid chromatograph and an atomic absorption spectrophotometer, which are to be delivered and installed in December 2011, and several smaller pieces of equipment have already arrived. Six undergraduate students, two graduate students, a PhD candidate, and a water sample collector have been assigned to work with Dr. Qureshi on the project. Meanwhile, Dr. Farrell and his research group at the University of Arizona have been testing the effectiveness of ion exchange fibers for removing arsenic from drinking water. He has recently been awarded a small research grant from the National Institutes for Environmental Health Sciences that will leverage resources available from his Pakistan-US S&T grant. The US side’s requested budget for this year was minimal, but in Year 2 once the Pakistani lab is fully operational the activity level will intensify, with a Pakistani postdoctoral research associate to begin an extended stay in Dr. Farrell’s lab. Dr. Qureshi, co-PI Inamullah Bhatti, and their university’s vice chancellor Muhammad Aslam Uqaili hope to visit as well, pending receipt of their visas.
2012 Show summary || Hide summary ||
The project team carried out a three-day training course on “Problems of arsenic in Sindh and its remediation” on November 16-17, 2011. More than 100 participants from various institutions in Pakistan attended the training course, which was held in Hyderabad. Course modules covered topics such as arsenic sources in groundwater, health and economic impacts, community awareness, government water quality standards, and arsenic remediation technologies. Participants also took part in site visits to several districts in Sindh aimed at familiarizing them with techniques for selecting and sampling water sources for analysis. In addition to the training course, by the end of 2011 Dr. Qureshi and her colleagues had completed work on establishing the new Water Quality Laboratory at the Chemical Engineering Department of Mehran UET. Major pieces of equipment installed include an oven, a peristaltic pump, a shaking bath, and an orbital shaker.
In 2012, plans call for Dr. Qureshi and her co-PI Dr. Inamullah Bhatti to visit the University of Arizona to plan joint experimental activities with their US counterpart Dr. Farrell and receive training on experimental techniques. Although Dr. Qureshi has received her visa, Dr. Bhatti has not, so their travel dates are still pending. Meanwhile, during the period May through July 2012, the research team at Mehran UET is planning relevant community motivation and awareness programs. They have identified six sites where the arsenic problem is acute, and in collaboration with local organizations the Mehran researchers will be conducting direct outreach and visual communication-based events to raise awareness of the problem among members of the communities. Illustrated posters, handbills, and booklets are being prepared in the local language to inform the public about the health hazards of arsenic in underground drinking waters, as well as possible remedies. A Pakistani PhD student is also expected to begin involvement in the project, which will contribute to his or her dissertation research.
During the second quarter of 2012, the Pakistani project team worked on preparing its Community Motivation Program (CMP), which is aimed at raising public awareness of the health hazards of arsenic contamination in drinking water. Relevant materials have been translated into the local language, and community-based partner organizations have been engaged to present three sessions of the CMP in September. Dr. Qureshi and her colleagues have received two major pieces of equipment purchased with funds from this project, an atomic absorption spectrophotometer and a high-pressure liquid chromatograph (HPLC). The HPLC has already been installed and commissioned, and the spectrophotometer will be installed in August. Dr. Qureshi and Dr. Inamullah Bhatti (Pakistani co-PI on the project) are planning to visit Arizona in September 2012 for consultations with the U.S. PI Dr. Farrell, joint research activities on the project, and training on experimental techniques. The visit has had to be postponed for several months due to visa delays experienced by Dr. Bhatti, but fortunately his visa has now been issued so the logistical arrangements can be made.
2013 Show summary || Hide summary ||
During October – December, 2012, Pakistani UET research team conducted community motivation and awareness programs of health hazards from drinking water with arsenic in three districts in Sindh, Pakistan. At each event, approximately 150 (100 males, 50 females) participants, consisting of NGOs, CBOs, health workers, general physicians, students, teachers, and people from the community attended. Illustrated posters, handbills, and booklets were prepared in the Sindh language to inform the public about the health hazards of arsenic in underground drinking waters, as well as possible remedies. A Pakistani PhD student is also expected to begin her work on the project, which will contribute to her dissertation research. Drs. Qureshi and Bhatti will begin their postdoctoral research in Dr. Farrell’s laboratory on May 15, 2013 instead of January 2013 as previously planned. The Pakistani PI will receive a second PhD student this summer. Difficulties mentioned includes slow procurement process at the university and frequent power failures creating problems in the laboratory.