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Riverbank filtration pulls pollutants from drinking water

beneficial."

The research has been supported by Environmental Protection Agency grants awarded to a team led by Weiss' doctoral advisor, Edward J. Bouwer, a professor in the Department of Geography and Environmental Engineering. The team has been studying water drawn from commercial wells located beside the Wabash, Ohio and Missouri rivers near Terre Haute, Ind.; Louisville, Ky.; and Kansas City, Mo.

In several recent papers published in peer-reviewed journals, Weiss, Bouwer and their colleagues have reported that riverbank filtration helps remove organic material left behind by decaying plants. In its natural state, this material poses no health hazards, but exposure to common water treatment chemicals such as chlorine can transform the material into cancer-causing compounds called disinfection byproducts.

"For this reason, it's a good idea to remove as much of this organic matter as we can from the water before it's treated with chemicals," Bouwer said. "Our research indicates that with riverbank filtration, we wind up with fewer of these dangerous disinfection byproducts in the drinking water."

Bouwer added, "Riverbank filtration doesn't completely eliminate the need for water treatment. But it should lower the treatment costs and reduce the risks of mixing chlorine with the organic material that can become carcinogenic."

The researchers studied wells that had been constructed at varying distances from 90 to 580 feet from the three rivers. Over a period of days or weeks, river water moves outward toward these wells. As it travels through the sediment, the water is exposed to physical, chemical and biological processes that help remove impurities, the researchers say. Large particles may be pulled out by a straining process. Some of the chemical contaminants and microbes react with components in the sediment and remain behind, too. As a result, the water that reaches the wells is significantly cleaner than it was when it
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Contact: Phil Sneiderman
prs@jhu.edu
443-287-9960
Johns Hopkins University
25-Aug-2004


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