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Purifying sand could be key to addressing water shortages

Date: 03-Feb-20
Author: Liam Taylor

The mineral-coated sand could unlock water supplies previously unsafe for human consumption. Image: University of California Berkeley © University of California Berkeley

The mineral-coated sand could unlock water supplies previously unsafe for human consumption. Image: University of California Berkeley

A team of engineers from the University of California Berkeley has developed a mineral-coated sand that can purify contaminated water.

The coated sand material can not only soak up toxic metals like lead and cadmium from water, but also destroy organic pollutants such as Bisphenol A (BPA). The team of researchers responsible for developing the material say this purifying capability means the sand could unlock urban water supplies that were previously unsuitable for human consumption.

A number of the world’s biggest cities have the ability to store excess stormwater underground during periods of heavy rain, which could be harvested during dry periods. However, due to the toxic chemicals picked up on its way through our urban environment, stormwater has generally been treated as waste rather than resource and discarded.

“The pollutants that hold back the potential of this water source rarely come one at a time,” said study lead author Joe Charbonnet in a statement.

“It makes sense that we fight back with a treatment technology that has these impressive double abilities to take out both toxic metals and organics. We suspected that the mineral-coated sand was special, but the way it continues to impress us with multiple capabilities is rather extraordinary.”

The material itself is simply sand particles coated with manganese oxide, a naturally occurring mineral that can physically remove toxic chemicals from the environment by binding with them in a chemical reaction. The UCB research team say the sand could be installed in rain gardens where stormwater is collected and cleaned, before being stored in underground aquifers.

The team has already begun investigating whether the material performs the same at large scale, with large test columns of the sand deployed at sites in Los Angeles and Sonoma. Researchers have deployed large test columns of the mineral-coated sands to treat stormwater at sites in Los Angeles and Sonoma, California.


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Positive Environment News has been compiled using publicly available information. Planet Ark does not take responsibility for the accuracy of the original information and encourages readers to check the references before using this information for their own purposes.


Liam                                              Taylor
Author: Liam Taylor

Liam is Planet Ark's Communications Coordinator. Prior to joining Planet Ark Liam spent his time studying global environmental issues, travelling Southeast Asia on the cheap and working for a sustainable property management company in Bali, Indonesia.

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