How A Firm Helps Small Communities Remove Contamination From Their Water

John Pujol and his team at SimpleWater, a Berkeley-based engineering firm, have developed a new way to put contaminated wells back into service by making friends with the age-old process of rusting metal. It could be cheaper and easier for many communities dealing with arsenic problems.

The way some people look at it, California has plenty of water to survive its periodic droughts. The problem is much of that water isn’t drinkable, and can’t be made drinkable, because it is too contaminated.

This is how John Pujol sees the situation. As CEO of SimpleWater, he has helped develop a new method to remove arsenic from groundwater. Arsenic is a naturally occurring element, but beyond a certain concentration it can cause a variety of health problems, including cancer, and can even be fatal when it arises in excessive quantities. More than 2,200 California drinking water sources are tainted by arsenic, and 600 of these exceed the state’s regulatory standard for arsenic contamination.

Rigid federal water quality standards exist to protect the public from arsenic in drinking water. But those standards often require communities to spend millions of dollars seeking a new water supply or paying for expensive filtration systems that often don’t work well or cost too much for small water systems to afford.

Pujol and his colleagues believe they have a much simpler solution using an age-old natural principle: rust. Their system, called ArsenicVolt, uses the erosive process of rusting metal to capture and extract arsenic from water. It was developed at Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory by two of Pujol’s partners. SimpleWater holds a license to market the technology.

The goal is an easier and cheaper system to help small communities revive productive wells tainted by arsenic. Water Deeply recently interviewed Pujol in Albuquerque, N.M., where his —> Read More