Skip to content

Local Water Woes, No More? Advancing Safe Drinking Water Technology

2014 August 25

By Ryann A. Williams

P3 Team shows their water filter

The SimpleWater company got their start as an EPA P3 team.

As a child growing up in Washington, D.C. I remember hearing adults talk about their concerns about the local tap water. Overheard conversations about lead content and murkiness in the water certainly got my attention. As an adult who now works at the Environmental Protection Agency, I know things have greatly improved.

Today, DC tap water is among the least of my concerns. I drink it every day.  Frequent testing to confirm its safety and public awareness campaigns by DC Water (the District of Columbia Water and Sewer Authority) have put my own worries to rest. But in other parts of the world and even in some areas of the U.S., people still have a reason to worry about their drinking water: arsenic.

Globally, millions of people are exposed to arsenic via drinking water and can suffer serious adverse health effects from prolonged exposure.

This is especially true in Bangladesh where it is considered a public health emergency. Other countries where drinking water can contain unsafe levels of arsenic include Argentina, Chile, Mexico, China, Hungary, Cambodia, Vietnam, and West Bengal (India). In addition, parts of the U.S. served by private wells or small drinking water systems also face risks due to arsenic in their drinking water.

Remedies are expensive and both energy- and chemical-intensive.

In 2007, a student team from the University of California, Berkeley won an EPA People, Prosperity and the Planet (P3) award for their research project aiming to help change that.

Explaining the arsenic removal project.

Explaining the arsenic removal project.

The students set out to test a cost-effective, self-cleaning, and sustainable arsenic-removal technology that employs a simple electric current. The current charges iron particles that attract and hold on to arsenic, and are then removed by filter or settle out of the water.

By the end of their P3 funding in 2010, promising results had allowed the team to extend their field testing to Cambodia and India, and move forward with the licensing and marketing of their product to interested companies in Bangladesh and India.

Today, the same group of former Berkeley students who formed the P3 team now own a company called SimpleWater.

SimpleWater is among 21 companies that recently received a Phase One contract from EPA’s Small Business Innovation Research Program.

SimpleWater aims to commercialize their product and bring their track record of success in Bangladesh and India to help Americans who may be at risk from arsenic exposure in their drinking water. In particular they’re focusing on those who live in arsenic-prone areas and whose drinking water is served by private wells or small community water systems that test positive for elevated arsenic levels. (Learn more about Arsenic in Drinking Water and what to do if you think testing is needed for your water.)

Thanks to EPA support, SimpleWater is working to reduce the threat of arsenic in small drinking water systems and private wells. With their help, millions of people may soon feel safer about their drinking water, and like me, have one less big thing to worry about.

About the Author: Ryann Williams is a student services contractor with the communications team at EPA’s National Center for Environmental Research. When she’s not working with the team, she enjoys other team activities like soccer and football.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

2 Responses leave one →
  1. diane ashton-caucci permalink
    August 26, 2014

    I AM PLEASED TO SEE THE SUBJECT OF DRINING WATER RISING TO A RESPECTABLE LEVEL OF INVESTITATION. I HAVE BEEN LIVING IN A HOME WITH A WELL THAT HAS OVER A DOZEN LETHAL ELEMENTS IN IT WATER. MY LOCAL AND STATE OFFICIALS ARE AWARE OF THE CONTAMINENTS IN MY WELL, BUT SINCE THERE ARE JUST BELOW THE STATE STANDARDS AND THAT NO OTHER HOMES DIRECTY ADJACENT TO ME SHOW CONTAMINENTS, THEY FEEL IT’S COST PROHIBITIVE TO RUN WATER LINES TO MY DEVELOPMENT. I AND MY HUSBANDS GASTROENTEROLOGIST FEEL MY HUSBANDS GASTRIC CANCER THAT TOOK HIM FROM ME AND OUR 15 YR OLD TWINS BACK IN 2005, WAS A DIRECT RESULT OF HIS USE OF OUR TAP WATER. I ALSO LOST TWO DOGS DUE TO CX, AND THEY, LIKE MY HUSBAND, WERE THE ONLY ONES WHO DRANK THE TAP WATER IN OUR HOME. I INSISTED THAT MY CHILDREN, THEIR NANNIES AND I MUST USE THE BOTTLED WATER I HAD DELIEVERED TO OUR HOME. MY CHILDREN ARE NOW GROWN AND LIVING ELSEWHERE, AND I AM LIVING A DISABLED WIDOWS’ LIFE WITH TIME TO STUDY OUR ENVIRONMENT. I EXERCISE MY VOCAL OPPORTUNITIES TO ENCOURGE YOUNGER PEOPLE TO PAY CLOSE ATTENTION TO THEIR ENVIRONMENT AND SUPPORT CANDIDATES THAT ALSO EMBRACE THE NEED TO PROTECT OUR ENVIRONMENT AND WANT TO CHANGE THE WRONGS THAT ARE BEING IGNORED. AS FOR ME, I’M BARELY GETTING BY LIVING ON DISABILITY DUE TO MY LUNG DISEASE, EOSPYHILLIC PNEUMONIA, WHICH IS A DIRECT OF MOLD IN MY HOME LEFT BEHIND FROM THE 18 FLOODS IN OUR HOMES FROM BROKEN COPPER PIPES. I’VE ASKED COUNTY OFFICIALS IF THEY WOULD PAY THE $350.00 TO HAVE MY WATER TESTED ONE LAST TIME SO I CAN SEE IF THERE ARE ANY CHANGES THAT WOULD ENCOURAGE ME TO REMAIN HERE OR CONFIRM THAT I SHOULD LOOK INTO RETIRING ELSEWHERE.

    IF THERE IS ANYONE OUT THERE READING THIS THAT HAS THE SECRET OF HOW TO GET THE TWP, COUNTY OR STATE TO DO A FULL PANEL OF TESTS ON MY WELL WATER. I CERTAINLY WOULD APPRECIATE ANY ADVISE THAT IS PROVIDED.

    THANK YOU FOR THIS OPPORTUNITY TO TELL MY STORY AND POSSIBLY FIND SOME HELPFUL ADVISE.
    GOD BLESS YOU ALL,
    DIANE ASHTON-CAUCCI

Leave a Reply

Note: You can use basic XHTML in your comments. Your email address will never be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS