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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

Bangladesh Picture 2

Bangladesh Picture 3

A Sidko filtering machine in an arsenic iron removal plant (Photo courtesy Dr. Kabir).A backwash sludge water sample is collected from the arsenic removal plant (Photo courtesy Dr. Kabir).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
At the end of 2015, the research team participated in the 20th Forum on Arsenic Contamination of Groundwater in Asia, held in Miyazaki, Japan on November 7-9, 2015 with an objective to disseminate and share the findings of the research "Field Assessment of Arsenic-bearing Waste Treatment Options" and learn from different research about arsenic issues among the Asian participating countries which included Nepal, Vietnam, Myanmar, and Japan. A presentation was prepared on the arsenic problem of the Bangladesh, including study methodology, sampling plan and frequencies, arsenic bearing sludge characterization and disposal, risks and vulnerabilities of the arsenic bearing sludge deposal methods, probability of further contamination of the environmental elements like soil, plant etc. by arsenic. Many participants at the forum showed keen interest and participated in productive discussions about the effects of sludge generated from arsenic removal technologies in Bangladesh.

The team conducted its own regional workshop which was organized at AAN’s Arsenic Centre in Jessore on December 12, 2015. Prof. Sk. Akhtar Ahmad, President of Asia Arsenic Network in Bangladesh chaired the sessions, Mr. Tarun Kanti Hore, Arsenic Centre Manager, moderated the workshop and a representative from the University of Michigan facilitated and participated in the workshop. The objectives of the workshop were: 1) To study the environmental impact of waste disposal practices from two types of arsenic removal systems currently being operated in Bangladesh; namely, the Arsenic Iron Removal Plant (AIRP) and SIDKO Plant; 2) To evaluate the alternative waste disposal methods; and 3) To quantify the arsenic transforming potential of microbial communities in disposal environment. A total of 47 participants attended the workshop including operators and users of the study technologies, members of the Department of Public Health Engineering (DPHE) from multiple sub-districts of Jessore and Jhenaidaha , an officer from the Fisheries Department at the district level, officers of the Government agencies at sub-districts level, representatives from different NGOs such as the NGO Forum for Public Health, Dhaka Ahsania Mission, professors and students form Khulna University of Engineering and Technology and Jessore University of Science and Technology, Bangladesh Agriculture Research Institute.

In January, the team hopes to produce a best practices on arsenic bearing sludge disposal utilizing the research findings and recommendation on the disposal practices before the project concludes the following month.

2-524 Participant Questions
A participant asks questions during the presentation of the PEER project during the regional workshop (Photo courtesy Dr. Kabir).

2-524 Sludge Removal
A team member collects sludge from the local water supplies. The children do not appear satisfied with the quality of the water (Photo courtesy Dr. Kabir).