[Innovation and technology for improving water quality] Presentation of final results of the heavy metal removal pilot project

The objective of the project was to improve the quality of drinking water supply for the communities in the areas where there are heavy metals in the environment, raising water quality to national drinking water standards.

On 2 December, the results and impact of the pilot of a new, economic and scalable technology for the removal of heavy metals from drinking water were presented at the Swiss Embassy. The technology, composed of cellulose membrane filters, activated carbon and lactose protein fibres, does not require energy and has no side effects.

Professor Dr. Raffaele Mezzenga and Sreenath Bolisetty from BluAct Technologies, who invented the filter, presented the results. The meeting was attended by officials and specialists from the Ministry of Housing, Construction and Sanitation’s Policy and Regulation Department and National Rural and Urban Sanitation Program; the Office of the Superintendent of Sanitation Services (SUNASS); the Pan American Health Organization; the NGO SABA Vida, which has worked in the implementation of the project; and SDC’s Risk Management and Humanitarian Aid Program, which is funding the initiative.

Martin Jaggi, SDC’s Director of Cooperation, highlighted the efficiency and effectiveness of this technology for removing all kinds of heavy metals from drinking water in the almost eight months since the pilot started in four of Peru’s regions. He reported that the initiative is being supported by the SDC’s Humanitarian Aid Programme, and in Peru, through the Disaster Risk Management Hub in Lima. “This filter can be used easily and with optimum results after natural disasters, earthquakes, floods, as a rapid response so that the disaster victims can have access to safe and quality drinking water” he said.

Martin Jaggi, Director of Swiss Cooperation (SDC)
Welcoming remarks

Professor Mezzenga presented the advantages the technology offered, including its low energy cost and easily disposable material, it can be put in landfills and adapted in construction materials.

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He noted that the amount of material treated with the filter will depend on the amount of arsenic or heavy metal concentration in the water.

He also noted that it is very important to bear in mind that the durability of the filter will depend on the conditions of the system. The filter should only be used when the characteristics of the water permit, in other words, the water should meet certain requirements to pass through the last level of filtration.

He explained that the filter had been tested in the field, and has treated water in homes (household service), community water treatment works, water that is very turbid, contains algae, and has high concentrations of arsenic, lead, and other heavy metals. “These characteristics have a high impact on the durability and efficiency of the filter, and they must be taken into account when working with this type of technology” he said.

Dr. Raffaele Mezzenga

These are just some of the advantages that he highlighted in his presentation. It was an opportunity to answer participants’ questions, explore the opportunities for scaling the technology up to national level and the advantages of doing so.

At the end of the day, Martin Jaggi said: “We are satisfied with the results shown in this first phase, it is an important first step. Looking at the costs presented, this is a technology that can be used in both the public and private sectors. Perhaps not so much in sparse communities, because the costs would rise, but probably for small or large cities. We will monitor this closely. 

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He went on to say: “”There are still three issues we will continue working on in the coming months: i) First, the formal validation from the Ministry of Housing. Swiss Cooperation will provide accompaniment for this technology to be part of the set of technologies in Peru. ii) Second, cost-benefit. Now that we have ascertained the costs and seen the marked health benefits, we will support an independent study that can provide real figures. iii) Finally, waste disposal, and including these risks in the whole product cycle”.

Finally he indicated that the technology is not yet ready to be put on the market as it is, but in a few more months it could be ready for implementation.  (Video)

You are invited you to see the details of this technology and the results of the pilot project in the following video of the whole of Professor Mezzenga’s presentation.

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For further information:
Fact sheet Heavy Metal Removal Project, Swiss Embassy, Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC)
Web Disaster Risk Reduction and Humanitarian Aid Program – Lima Hub (Peru)

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La Agencia Suiza para el Desarrollo y la Cooperación (COSUDE) es la entidad encargada de la cooperación internacional dentro del Departamento Federal de Asuntos Exteriores (DFAE). Con otras oficinas de la Confederación, la COSUDE es responsable de la coordinación general de la cooperación para el desarrollo y de la cooperación con los Países del Este, así como de los programas de ayuda humanitaria suizos.