Heavy metals and metalloids such as lead, chromium, and arsenic in drinking water have deleterious effects on human and environmental health. These heavy metals can lead to serious chronic illness and other long-term health effects. Many water sources such as lakes, rivers, and groundwater wells are heavily contaminated with these heavy metals and metalloids in the current and former mining towns of Zambia. This has left the impacted communities with limited sources of fresh, clean drinking water and a desperate need for solutions. The goal of this research is to create a low-cost and sustainable at-home filtration system that utilizes biofilters to remove heavy metal contaminates such as lead from drinking water. This paper focuses on the efficacy of two biofilters, brown algae (genus Sargassum) and Moringa seeds. To test the effectiveness of these biofilters, water samples spiked with 500 µg/l of lead were filtered with these materials, then analyzed for lead concentrations. To determine how many times the Sargassum could be used, a portion of previous dried Sargassum was placed into a lead solution, then filtered, dried, and examined for lead concentration. Preliminary results showed significant reduction (70%) in lead concentrations when the spiked water samples were treated with Sargassum, while 0% reduction was observed with Moringa. These results also showed that Sargassum can be used repeatedly without losing its lead removal efficiency. More testing is being conducted on both the algae and the Moringa seeds to also include removal of microbial contaminants. According to these results, Sargassum appears to be a viable medium for use in a filtration apparatus to remove lead from contaminated water. These algae are abundant in the ocean and can easily be grown in the lab which would make them affordable and accessible, and therefore sustainable and cost-effective.


GC Biological & Envrionmental Sciences Dept.

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