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Cancer prevention through low cost remediation of arsenic in drinking water

Institution: University of California, Berkeley
Investigator(s): Ashok Gadgil,
Award Cycle: 2019 (Cycle 29) Grant #: T29IR0649 Award: $914,614
Subject Area: Environmental Exposure/Toxicology
Award Type: High Impact Research Project Award

Initial Award Abstract
Arsenic is the most potent cancer causing contaminant among those allowed in drinking water. In California, hundreds of poor, rural communities are forced to rely on groundwater contaminated with arsenic for their drinking water. These communities neither have the resources to remove arsenic from their water, nor can they routinely afford bottled water. Our proven earlier technology, called ECAR (ElectroChemical Arsenic Remediation), reliably removes arsenic from high toxic values to below 10 ppb (values considered safe by the U.S. EPA). ECAR has been field tested successfully in South Asia and California.

We propose the next generation of ECAR, resulting in a compact, high-performance, continuous flow design. This version will be called ACAIE (Air Cathode Assisted Iron Electrocoagulation). It aims to treat water at higher throughput at less than $0.25 per liter. We will conduct research to optimize ACAIE at the lab and field scale. We will also build relationships with a community for implementing a field test. Afterward, we will evaluate ACAIE's field performance, and disseminate awareness in the community on the health risks from long-term exposure to arsenic in their drinking water.

We propose to (1) Validate the performance of ACAIE with real California groundwater samples, (2) Establish relationships with community leaders and activists after identifying a suitable community for a field site in California, (3) Design a 250 Liters per Hour ACAIE plant for field testing, (4) Test the plant's field-performance for 6 months to confirm consistent removal of arsenic to safe levels, (5) Conduct public meetings and outreach efforts in the community to spread awareness about cancer risk associated with arsenic in drinking water, and assess improvement in understanding with social surveys.

Our results will allow us to decide whether our ACAIE field-plant design works well in the field for 6-months, and what improvements are needed if any. Also, determine if our outreach methods were adequate, or need to be improved. ACAIE promises to be a more compact, less expensive, and more efficient arsenic removal technology than ECAR, for higher throughput systems suitable for California. If successful, this project will bring us closer to solving the arsenic crisis in rural California.