Household and Community Systems for Groundwater Remediation in Bihar, India: Arsenic and Inorganic Contaminant Removal, Controls and Implications for Remediation Selection

Laura Richards, Neha Parashar, Rupa Kumari, Arun Kumar, Debapriya Mondal, Ashok Ghosh, David Polya

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The presence of arsenic (As) and other inorganic contaminants in groundwater is a key public health issue in India and many other parts of the world. Whilst a broad range of remediation technologies exist, performance can be highly variable, and appropriate selection and management of remediation approaches remains challenging. Here, we have identified and tested the performance of a range of small-scale remediation technologies (e.g. sand filters, multi-stage filtration and reverse osmosis (RO) based systems; n = 38) which have been implemented in Bihar, India. We have undertaken spot assessments of system performance under typical operating conditions in household and non household (e.g. community, hospital, hostel/hotel) settings. The removal of As and other inorganic contaminants varied widely (ranging from ~ 0 – 100 %), with some solutes generally more challenging to remove than others. We have evaluated the relative importance of technology type (e.g. RO-based versus non-RO systems), implementation setting (e.g. household versus non-household) and source water geochemistry (particularly concentrations and ratios of As, Fe, P, Si and Ca), as potential controls on remediation effectiveness. Source water composition, particularly the ratio ([Fe] -1.8[P])/[As], is a statistically significant control on As removal (p < 0.01), with higher ratios associated with higher removal, regardless of technology type. This ratio provides a theoretical input which could be used to identify the extent to which natural groundwater composition may be geochemically compatible with higher levels of As removal. In Bihar, we illustrate how this ratio could be used to identify spatial patterns in theoretical geochemical compatibility for As removal, and to identify where additional Fe may theoretically facilitate improved remediation. This geochemical approach could be used to inform optimal selection of groundwater remediation approaches, when considered alongside other important considerations (e.g. technical, managerial and socio-economic) known to impact the effective implementation and sustainability of successful groundwater remediation approaches.
Original languageEnglish
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 11 Mar 2022

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