Removal of Arsenic from Groundwater Using Naturally Occurring Iron Oxides in Rural Regions of Mongolia

EPA Grant Number: SU833934
Title: Removal of Arsenic from Groundwater Using Naturally Occurring Iron Oxides in Rural Regions of Mongolia
Investigators: Gao, Di , Monnell, Jason
Current Investigators: Gao, Di , Mccord, Edward L , Monnell, Jason
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
EPA Project Officer: Nolt-Helms, Cynthia
Phase: I
Project Period: October 1, 2008 through April 1, 2009
Project Amount: $9,999
RFA: P3 Awards: A National Student Design Competition for Sustainability Focusing on People, Prosperity and the Planet (2008) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: P3 Challenge Area - Materials & Chemicals , P3 Challenge Area - Water , Pollution Prevention/Sustainable Development , P3 Awards , Sustainability


A rural population of over a million in Inner Mongolia, one of the most disadvantaged regions in China, suffers serious health problems as a result of drinking water with arsenic concentrations as high as 1800 μg/L, which is 180 times over WHO’s drinking water guideline value. Because high arsenic concentrations are found in both shallow and deep wells and access to sanitized surface water and electricity is limited in this region, sustainable safe drinking water can only be supplied by effective removal of arsenic from groundwater. However, currently available methods for arsenic removal are unaffordable to the rural population where the average household income is in the range of 800-1200 RMB (about $100) per household per year. We aim to design a low-cost process for effective removal of arsenic from groundwater using naturally occurring iron-oxides that can be obtained at low prices in Inner Mongolia. The designed process has the potential to overcome the obstacles of previous methods and may be used affordably and on a small-scale, allowing for rapid dissemination into households in Inner Mongolia through collaboration with local governments and research institutions.


We propose to use magnetic particles of naturally occurring iron oxide as adsorbents to remove arsenic in groundwater. The magnetic iron oxide particles will be produced by grinding iron ores that are available at low prices in Inner Mongolia, and separated from non-magnetic materials using a magnet drum separator. The magnetic particles will be dispersed in water in a powder or sludge form to remove arsenic. The particles will be separated from water and recovered by a magnet drum separator after the treatment. The magnet drum separator is designed to be able to operate without the use of electricity or gasoline. The design team will develop a prototype of the magnet drum separator and demonstrate the arsenic removal process at the University of Pittsburgh, with Inner Mongolia groundwater and iron oxide samples obtained through collaboration with partners in China. The water treatment process and the magnet drum separator design will be optimized to improve the efficiencies of arsenic removal and recovery of iron oxides. With successful development of the prototype, a field test will be conducted in Inner Mongolia through collaboration with our partner in China.

Expected Results:

The outcome of the research may provide millions of households in Inner Mongolia with affordable arsenic removal systems to gain access to safe drinking water. Students involved in the research will gain international views on the importance of sustainable environmental protection and clean water to the developing world. In addition, such research activities conducted by a university in US help provide decision-makers in the surrounding communities of Inner Mongolia with scientific information on the importance of clean drinking water.

Publications and Presentations:

Publications have been submitted on this project: View all 3 publications for this project

Journal Articles:

Journal Articles have been submitted on this project: View all 1 journal articles for this project

Supplemental Keywords:

ground water, water purification, arsenic removal, oxalic acid, hematite, magnetite, magnetic pump,

Progress and Final Reports:

  • Final Report