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Safe Clean Water
Safe, Clean Water
Safety is assuring that the water we drink from the tap is free of contaminants. That is - free of naturally occurring contaminants such as arsenic; free of contaminants from human activities such as MtBE (a gasoline additive) and percolate (used in explosives and rocket fuel); and free of contaminants intentionally introduced into the water systems by would-be terrorists.
The costs for removal of arsenic from drinking water to meet the EPA's new 10ppb standard are very high, particularly for rural and small community water systems, which tend to have little or no existing water treatment facilities. A relevant example is in the state of New Mexico. New Mexico has 114 water systems that have arsenic levels greater than 10 ppb. Eighty of these are systems that serve rural communities of fewer than 1000 people. A recent study at the University of New Mexico projects that costs for removing arsenic from these systems, using present technology, could be as high as $90 per month per household. Larger municipalities will spend in the millions.

Arsenic Removal Treatment Field Test
Arsenic Removal Treatment Field Test
Kirtland Airforce Base, Albuquerque, NM
Sandia's work in geologic repositories for hazardous waste and environmental technologies focused on sequestering anionic contaminants. We are extending that knowledge to develop materials and processes that are highly efficient at removing arsenic from drinking water. Our laboratory comparison studies have shown about 10 times the capacity for removing arsenic using our materials as for commercially available sorbent materials.

These same materials have passed leaching tests, demonstrating that the by-product can be disposed of in a landfill, rather than as hazardous waste material. Sandia's collaboration with UNM and the American Water Works Association Research Foundation (AwwaRF) are now focusing on moving out of the laboratory and into the field. We are currently conducting our first field test of a high arsenic well on Kirtland Air Force Base, in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

The water issues faced in Albuquerque, and New Mexico overall, are compelling examples of water issues faced elsewhere in the world. This situation has created the opportunity to use our local environment as a test bed for the development and implementation of new technologies to address specific water issues.

Water is a commodity. As we move into the future it is clear we are using more and more water, from increasingly limited sources. We are faced with a wide range of contaminants we must develop technologies to remove, and we must protect the water supply from malevolent attack.

The cost of treatment to meet the new arsenic standard must be addressed at both policy and political levels. Continuing to actively work with the major water industry associations will play a key role. There is strong industry interest in the arsenic treatment technologies Sandia has developed. We are pursuing patents on key intellectual property and a number of companies from the private sector have expressed an interest in our technology.

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