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Stanford scientists find new solutions for the arsenic-poisoning crisis in Asia
Date:3/25/2009

tion was occurring near the surface and, in fact, would take at least 100 years to reach the aquifer below. The Stanford team also showed that the 100-year-scale cycling of arsenic into the aquifer was a natural process that had been occurring for thousands of years, preceding any human influence. "We showed that there is a perpetual source of arsenic that replenishes from the surface," Fendorf said.

Solutions to the crisis

Understanding the area's hydrology will allow developers to strategically install wells that draw from areas free of dissolved arsenic, providing clean, drinkable water. Such targeted excavation can be extremely accurate, Fendorf said.

But what if a village needs a well but is unable to find an arsenic-free location to install it? Fendorf has proposed several solutions, including installing arsenic filters, collecting rainwater and purifying surface water. Each option has pros and cons, he said.

Filtering arsenic from well water raises the problem of how to dispose of leftover waste. "There aren't hazardous waste landfill sites," he noted. Additionally, the filter approach requires a dependable monitoring system. "If you do have a failure of the filter, how do you know when it occurs, and how are you going to be testing for that?" he asked.

Harvesting rainwater with collection tanks or rooftop gutters can be effective in certain locations and for certain people, he said. But areas with longer dry seasons require big tanks that are often too expensive. "These are areas where people are making less than $2 a day," Fendorf noted.

Another option is to use a disinfectant to purify surface water collected from ponds or rivers. The problem, he said, is that the filters have to be very cheap and easy to use. To solve the problem, Fendorf has been collaborating with Resource Development International (RDI), a non-governmental organization in Cambodia that makes affordable filters from locally di
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Contact: Mark Shwartz
mshwartz@stanford.edu
650-723-9296
Stanford University
Source:Eurekalert

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