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Michelle Fedun and Leigh Heinbokel

Assessment on the Performances of Biosand Filters Built with Untreated River Sand and Disinfected River Sand

Department: Civil and Environmental Engineering
Advisor: Kristen Jellison

Implemented in over 55 countries worldwide, biosand filters (BSFs) have proven to be effective small-scale drinking water treatment systems. Their inexpensive material cost, low maintenance requirements, and ease of use make BSFs appealing to communities in the developing countries where they typically operate. However, the difficulty of assembling materials for the implementation process can pose an obstacle, particularly in isolated areas. Currently, the use of on-site material for building BSFs is dissuaded, upon posited risk of contamination from pathogens and organic matter. Nonetheless, many BSFs are still filled with river sand because it is more readily available. An assessment of the effectiveness of BSFs built using river sand is being conducted on two full-scale concrete BSFs, two 5-gallon bucket BSFs, and two 2-gallon bucket BSFs. Half of the BSFs are filled with untreated river sand and the other half with disinfected river sand, and two additional full-scale concrete BSFs serve as controls, packed with commercial washed beach sand. The performances of the BSFs are compared by regularly spiking influent water with Escherichia coli and evaluating reduction capacity, as well as measuring daily turbidity removal. Additionally, hydraulic loading rates and water quality measurements (i.e. conductivity, phosphates, ammonia, pH) are monitored. Results of these analyses will suggest whether it is safe to use BSFs constructed with river sand, and if river sand sanitized by chlorination improves BSF performance. If such BSFs are found to meet drinking water standards, it would lower the cost and simplify the implementation of biosand filters in emergent nations.

About Michelle Fedun:
Michelle Fedun is a senior majoring in environmental engineering. As a Clare Boothe Luce research scholar, she has been investigating issues with biosand filter implementation and use for the last year and a half. She hopes to pursue a master’s degree in environmental biotechnology and apply her Lehigh degree to providing safe drinking water to communities around the globe. When outside the lab, Michelle plays violin in the Lehigh University Philharmonic, the Dirac Quartet, and Mariachi Moñtana del Sur.

About Leigh Heinbokel:
Leigh Heinbokel is a senior environmental engineer. This is her fourth semester working on the biosand filter project. She was drawn to this project because of her desire to bring clean water to developing countries. She is from Westfield, NJ, and loves going to the gym and cooking. She is hoping to enter the field of environmental consulting with a focus in remediation so she can help clean up man made messes.