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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 February 2016
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
Two chemists working on the project, Md. Shamim Uddin and Abu Shamim Khan, participated in a training program at the University of Michigan from February 10 to March 10, 2014. During their stay, they exchanged ideas with U.S. counterparts and gained understanding of current approaches to arsenic mitigation in Bangladesh, waste treatment, development of techniques for field-based DNA extractions for samples, and cross-laboratory verification of preliminary research results. They have developed their analytical skills for measuring arsenic concentrations in various biological samples, conducting DNA extraction and PCR, and conducting arsenic leaching tests using the latest methods. These skills will contribute to the successful implementation of the PEER project, which is aimed at reducing environmental health risks from arsenic-bearing waste treatment options and providing appropriate guidance for the safer operation of arsenic sludge management systems. While in Michigan, the Bangladeshi researchers also participated in a two-day event, the Borchardt Conference, organized by the Faculty of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Michigan. They presented a well-received poster entitled “Field Assessment of Arsenic-Bearing Waste Treatment Options in Bangladesh.”

Bangladesh 6
Md. Shamim Uddin and Abu Shamim Khan at the University of Michigan (Photo courtesy Dr. Kabir).

Bangladesh 7
The month-long training session allowed the chemists to exchange ideas with their U.S. counterparts such as Tara Clancy, left (Photo courtesy Dr. Kabir).

The major activities on the project this summer will be water and soil sampling at various sites, with the samples to be analyzed both at the University of Michigan and AAN. A large soil sample will be collected to create a control farm at the AAN laboratory to determine the level of arsenic uptake by the crops planted there. In addition, data previously gathered from arsenic iron removal plant and SIDKO plant sites are being analyzed, and a review paper will be produced in the upcoming quarter.
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