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Cost-effective Arsenic Removal Method Developed By Clarkson Students

[A photograph for newspaper use is available at]

Working on solutions to real-world problems is the hallmark of a Clarkson education.

Now students from the Clarkson Environmental Design Team have tackled the worldwide problem of arsenic contamination of drinking water, and have developed a cost-effective treatment technology to remove arsenic in small water delivery systems and domestic water systems. Matthew Guess, Casey Monagan and Amy Zander

The team worked on the project as part of a national contest that challenges student teams to find solutions to environmental problems.

The Clarkson team will present and demonstrate their removal system in the 13th Annual Environmental Design Contest, to be held April 6-10 on the campus of New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, New Mexico. The contest is sponsored by the Waste-Management Education and Research Consortium.

More than 13 million Americans have levels of arsenic in their water that exceed the recently established maximum contaminant limit for drinking water. Other countries throughout the world have even greater problems with contamination. More than 40 million people in India alone are drinking water with high levels of arsenic. 

But as team adviser Amy Zander, professor of civil and environmental engineering and an expert on arsenic removal, explained, removing arsenic from water supplies is extremely difficult.

“Arsenic is toxic at very low levels in water, so must be removed to very low concentrations. Also, arsenic cannot be destroyed, only changed in form, so removal from water creates a concentrated waste that is potentially more toxic than the water. Finally, much of the contaminated water is found in rural, sparsely-populated areas that makes its removal expensive and difficult to achieve.”

“The Clarkson students have found a very simple and cost effective solution for arsenic removal from water,” Zander added. “They are passing the water through a bed of an iron-based media that has a very high capacity for adsorbing arsenic and is not greatly affected by competing ions in the water. They have done a wonderful job of tackling the problem and thinking through a workable solution that addresses scientific, health, safety and community acceptance issues.”

To compete in the contest, student teams must prepare and submit written design reports, make oral presentations and develop bench-scale models of their solutions that are judged by a panel of experts from government, industry and academia.

This is the eleventh consecutive year the Clarkson Environmental Design team will participate in the international contest. In previous competitions, the team has consistently received top honors and numerous first-place prizes for innovation and efficient designs. This year, Clarkson is one of 66 teams from around the world that will compete in the contest that includes cash awards exceeding $75,000.

The Environmental Design Team is part of Clarkson University’s SPEED (Students Projects for Engineering Experience and Design) program that promotes multidisciplinary project based learning opportunities for more than 250 undergraduates annually. SPEED projects involve engineering design and analysis, fabrication, and the enhancement of professional competencies such as budget management, effective teamwork and communication skills. SPEED receives its primary financial support from Alcoa, Corning, Eastman Kodak, the General Electric Fund and Procter & Gamble. SPEED was recognized with the 2001 Boeing Outstanding Educator Award and the 2002 Corporate and Foundation Alliance Award for its exceptional contributions to improving undergraduate engineering education.

Photo caption: (left to right) Clarkson students Matthew Guess and Casey Monagan, members of the Clarkson Environmental Design Team, and Professor of Civil & Environmental Engineering Amy Zander discuss the sample set-up for arsenic analysis using an electrothermal atomic absorption spectrophotometer. The work is part of a treatment designed to remove arsenic from water developed by the Environmental Design Team for an upcoming national competition.

[News directors and editors: For more information, contact Annie Harrison, Director of Media Relations, at 315-268-6764 or]

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