Centers and Institutes

Institute of Catholics Bioethics

Sustainable Water Projects

Institute Program Description


2012-2013 Arsenic water extraction/filtration project

Unsafe drinking water is defined as inconsumable water containing biological or chemical pollutants that often cause illness and disease in developing nations.  Pathogenic bacteria and arsenic are two common contaminants in water that cause avoidable illnesses.  Slow sand filters are a proven and simple technology that relies on straining and attachment to a previously formed biofilm to remove microorganisms. Water hyacinths have been shown to absorb arsenic from water at high rates, and the water hyacinths can potentially be used to reduce arsenic concentration from water.  The objective of the project is to design and test a slow sand filter incorporating Eichhornia crassipes (water hyacinths) that can remove both bacteria and arsenic from water.  In the past, we tested a slow sand filter of our own design for elimination of bacteria, and it achieved removal rates above 99%.  We have now introduced modifications to the design to incorporate either live lilies or dried plant material. We are testing these two new designs together with two control filters that do not include plants. The project will have three stages: evaluation of the effect of plant material in the bacterial removal effectiveness of the filter, assessment of the behavior of a similar ion (phosphorus) in the filter, and finally assessment of arsenic removal. If the filter proves to be efficient, it will be implemented in our target country of Bangladesh, a developing country with high arsenic pollution.


 2011-2012 - Slow-sand water filter project  

Article Published:  Med Sci Monit, 2012; 18(7): RA105-117z  Click on link below for a copy of this article

Slow-sand water filter: Design, implementation, accessibility and sustainability in developing countries
Peter A. Clark1, Catalina Arango Pinedo2, Matthew Fadus1, Stephen Capuzzi1

1 Institute of Catholic Bioethics, Saint Joseph’s University, Philadelphia, PA, U.S.A.
2 Department of Biology, Saint Joseph’s University, Philadelphia, PA, U.S.A.

Source of support: Self financing

To design, construct, test, implement and finance a cost-effective water filter to help decrease the amount of typhoid in Third World countries.  The need for safe drinking water is rising at an exponential rate. The need for water has increased six-fold in the last century, more than twice the rate of the world's population growth. Today, more than 1.1 billion people, mostly in low and middle-income countries, lack access to safe water sources within a reasonable distance (1 kilometer) and reasonable quantities (20 L a day) from their home. The lack of clean and safe drinking water has significant medical and economic implications, especially towards women and children.

There are an estimated 400 million children in the world that do not have access to safe drinking water. Water-related diseases account for 5 million lives each year, and for children under the age of 5, water-related diseases are the leading causes of death, responsible for 80% of deaths for children under the age of 5. Every year over 8 million children under the age of 5 die from malnutrition and preventable diseases.  

To address the need for clean water on a small, immediate scale, we have designed and constructed two slow sand water filters (we plan to build 4 more of various dimensions) and are in the process of testing them with various contaminants.