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Researchers earn $200,000 prize for filtering arsenic from water wells

An international team of engineers led by Lehigh Prof. Arup SenGupta has won a $200,000 prize for its efforts to counter what some people have called the world's worst environmental catastrophe.

The researchers, who have designed a system that filters arsenic from well water, will receive the Silver Award in a contest sponsored by the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) and The Grainger Foundation.

The awards were announced today (Feb. 1) by NAE and will be presented at the 2007 NAE Awards Dinner on Tuesday, Feb. 20, in Washington, D.C.

The 2007 Grainger Challenge Prize for Sustainability sought innovative solutions for removing arsenic from drinking water. Of the 70 teams submitting entries, three won prizes. The NAE, a private, nonprofit institution, advises the federal government and conducts engineering studies. The Grainger Foundation supports education, museums, health care and human services.

The World Health Organization estimates that as many as 100 million people in India and Bangladesh may be drinking well water that contains toxic levels of arsenic. Victims suffer skin lesions, cancer and even death. WHO calls the phenomenon the "largest mass poisoning of a population in history."

"Cupful by cupful, the people of Bangladesh and other developing countries are being poisoned by drinking water from tube wells," says the Grainger Challenge website. "Tens of millions of Bangladeshis as many as a quarter of the total population use wells that provide water containing 10 to 50 times the amount of arsenic considered safe." Bangladesh has a population of about 140 million.

SenGupta, the P.C. Rossin Professor of civil and environmental engineering and also of chemical engineering, was asked in 1995 by the nonprofit organization Water For People to design an arsenic-removal system. An expert in the removal of trace contaminants, SenGupta has taught and consulted in Turkey, the United Arab Emirates,
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Contact: Kurt Pfitzer
kap4@lehigh.edu
610-758-3017
Lehigh University
1-Feb-2007


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