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treating arsenic in water

Fri, 04Sep2009

Vietnam Arsenic Project



Introduction and Background

Arsenic is a well documented human carcinogen. Drinking arsenic contaminated water over a long period leads to arsenic poisoning (arsenicosis), resulting in a myriad of health problems such as cancers and skin problems. In recent years, severe and widespread contamination of groundwater and drinking water by arsenic has been found in rural and sub-urban areas in and around the Vietnamese capital of Hanoi. This has prompted an urgent need to develop simple, affordable and sustainable techniques for lowering arsenic concentrations in drinking water.

Responding to this need, Lien Institute For the Environment (LIFE) has developed a household level arsenic treatment system. A pilot project was implemented at Van Mon and Phuong Tien Villages. These two villages are located in the Red River Delta, some 50 km from Hanoi. Lien Foundation-NTU Environmental Endeavour was overall responsible for the project.

see map

see map

Van Mon and Phuong Tien villages have a total population of 2,800 people with 500 households. Most of the residents are farmers, mainly growing maze and sweet potatoes. 100% of the villagers use dug wells or deep drilled well for domestic uses. 80% of households use well water for drinking and the rest use rainwater. It was reported that arsenic level in well water of these villages are many times above the Vietnamese and World Health Organization (WHO) provisional guideline value for arsenic of standard of 0.01 mg/l. This is in agreement with our preliminary water quality testing; where arsenic level as high as 0.3 mg/l was encountered.


The objective of the project is to establish a model project for household level arsenic treatment system.

Design of the household level arsenic treatment system

The household level treatment system is based on current designs of the sand filters presently used in Vietnam. Modifications made by LIFE:

1. Aeration pipes

Including a simple and more effective aeration that helps to precipitate out iron in the well water which will facilitate the partial removal of arsenic.

2. Backwash System

Including a backwash system that reduce the frequency of replacing the sand in the sand filter.

3. Laterite adsorption compartment

Including an additional laterite (locally available natural adsorbent) adsorption compartment to lower the arsenic level to WHO standard for drinking water. This was done after extensive laboratory testing to find the right sizing of the adsorbent, detention time as well as the lifespan of the adsorbent.

Beneficiaries enjoying treated water from LIFE system

Performance of the household level arsenic treatment system

Initial testing of 74 household level arsenic treatment systems deployed in the two villages proved promising. The results show that the 96% of the systems are capable of reducing the level of arsenic from up to 0.5 mg/l in the raw water to below WHO provisional guideline value for arsenic in drinking water of 0.01 mg/l, making the treated water safe for consumption. For the 4% that was unable to reduce the arsenic level to the WHO standard, the level of arsenic is between 0.012-0.025 mg/l. That is still a significant reduction in the arsenic level compared to the raw water.

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