Project Lead(s): Alyssa Rellstab
The arsenic crisis in Bangladesh is considered by the World Health Organization to be the largest mass poisoning of a population in human history, with 77 million people at risk of arsenic poisoning, despite relentless efforts and hundreds of millions of dollars being spent.
Implemented in Bangladesh, the project involved adapting DRENCH (Direct Remediation and Elimination of Chemical Harm) technology in rural Bangladesh.
By retrofitting filters directly onto contaminated tube wells, PurifAid aimed to improve the health outcomes of villagers that have long been exposed to arsenic through contaminated well water.
DRENCH is a new generation of filtration unit that runs on an organic by-product of the beverage industry – in this instance, rice husks.
The units address many of the failings of existing devices, as they require no power or chemicals and are very low maintenance.
By actively engaging these beneficiaries as future key stakeholders in the purification and distribution process of their own water supply, PurifAid further assists communities to establish a self-sustainable business model.
The PurifAid team went to Bangladesh from April to July 2014 to work in the villages affected by arsenic poisoning.
The focus of field work was the rural region of Matlab Dakshin, the primary rural field site for the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh, (icddr,b) as well as the BRAC Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Programme (WASH).
Matlab Dakshin was identified as the primary site for our investigation by BRAC because more than 90% of the tube wells in the region are heavily contaminated with arsenic.
The project successfully adopted the DRENCH technology to Bangladesh and showed that, when rice husks are used for two cycles of filtration, it can remove 95% of arsenic, along with manganese and iron, from drinking water.
Processed water quality fell within the range of WHO-recommended levels of arsenic in drinking water of 10 parts per billion (ppb).
The DRENCH unit successfully filtered out the arsenic contamination and proved that the technology filter could effectively be retrofitted directly onto the tube wells.
The filtration flow rate was nearly equal to the rate at which the water was being pumped from the tube well.
The team plans to apply for Phase II Transition To Scale funding,, in part to ensure that the decontaminated tube well water is accessible by all villagers.