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Partnerships for enhanced engagement in research (PEER) SCIENCE
Cycle 2 (2012 Deadline)

Field assessment of arsenic-bearing waste treatment options

PI:  Ahammadul Kabir (Asia Arsenic Network)
U.S. Partner: Lutgarde Raskin (University of Michigan)
Project Dates: August 2013 to July 2015
Water quality and supply issues in South Asia, dominated by concerns of arsenic contaminated groundwater and microbially contaminated surface water, are expected to worsen with the effects of climate change. Arsenic removal systems are essential for providing drinking water but generate arsenic-bearing wastes that can re-release arsenic to the environment. This project focuses on arsenic-bearing waste management, an issue preventing greater implementation of arsenic removal systems. By collaborating with researchers at the University of Michigan (UM) and consultants at Carollo Engineers, Dr. Kabir and his group will apply techniques developed through their lab studies to evaluate field-scale arsenic-bearing waste management options. Specifically, they will (1) analyze arsenic wastes from two types of arsenic removal systems, (2) evaluate alternative waste disposal options, and (3) quantify the arsenic-transforming potential of microbial communities in disposal environments. 

  Bangladesh Picture 1 A Sidko filtering machine in an arsenic iron removal plant (Photo courtesy Dr. Kabir).

  Bangladesh Picture 2 A backwash sludge water sample is collected from the arsenic removal plant (Photo courtesy Dr. Kabir).

  Bangladesh Picture 3 Collection of solid sludge samples nearby the arsenic removal plant (Photo courtesy Dr. Kabir).

The mitigation of arsenic contamination in drinking water in Bangladesh has the potential to improve the lives of millions of people in Bangladesh. Arsenic contamination of drinking water threatens human health and productivity by increasing morbidity and mortality (Argos et al. 2010). To properly address this barrier to development, guidelines for disposal of arsenic-bearing waste from arsenic removal systems must be established. This project will provide region-specific recommendations for arsenic-bearing waste management, enabling improved implementation of arsenic removal systems and enhancing the capacity of the Asia Arsenic Network (AAN) to provide clean drinking water. The results from this study will also inform decisions about how best to manage arsenic solids produced during water treatment to avoid recontamination of nearby soils and surface water with arsenic. AAN’s extensive outreach experience will be used to communicate findings with local arsenic removal plant operators and community members. AAN also works closely with local government officials and will communicate results and recommendations to policymakers. Planned training visits to the University of Michigan will also facilitate AAN’s capacity to conduct research and monitor water quality in Bangladesh, while upgrades to AAN’s lab equipment will enhance the organization’s capacity to test for multiple pollutants in drinking water, including not only arsenic but also microbial contaminants.
Summary of Recent Activities
Once the project commenced in September 2013, research goals and objectives were converted to an action plan after consultation with the U.S. partner. Staff recruitment was completed and an inventory was prepared by collecting and organizing information on arsenic removal technologies installed in the Jessore and Chuadanga districts from various sources, reports, and field visits. The team vetted a total of 15 sample sites in different sub-districts of the above-mentioned districts. They selected eight sites, including three arsenic iron removal plants that use passive oxidation, three sites where SIDKO filters are used to remove arsenic, and two control sites.

Bangladesh 4
Field-testing of samples (Photo courtesy Dr. Kabir).

Bangladesh 5
The owner of the facility is interviewed (Photo courtesy Dr. Kabir).

In the first quarter of 2014, the researchers will conduct a trial sample collection, check their analytical procedures, and carry out a full trial testing of design samples. In addition, a quality-control mechanism for sample collection and analysis should be completed by the end of February 2014. Two members of the research team, Muhammad Abu Shamim Khan and Muhammad Shamim Uddin, will be training in the U.S. partner's lab at the University of Michigan from mid-February through mid-March.
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