Arsenic removal from drinking water by a household sand filter in Vietnam - Effect of filter usage practices on arsenic removal efficiency and microbiological water quality

Katja Sonja Nitzsche, Vi Mai Lan, Pham Thi Kim Trang, Pham Hung Viet, Michael Berg, Andreas Voegelin, Britta Planer-Friedrich, Jan Zahoransky, Stefanie Katharina Müller, James Martin Byrne, Christian Schröder, Sebastian Behrens, Andreas Kappler

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    49 Scopus citations


    Household sand filters are applied to treat arsenic- and iron-containing anoxic groundwater that is used as drinking water in rural areas of North Vietnam. These filters immobilize poisonous arsenic (As) via co-oxidation with Fe(II) and sorption to or co-precipitation with the formed Fe(III) (oxyhydr)oxides. However, information is lacking regarding the effect of the frequency and duration of filter use as well as of filter sand replacement on the residual As concentrations in the filtered water and on the presence of potentially pathogenic bacteria in the filtered and stored water. We therefore scrutinized a household sand filter with respect to As removal efficiency and the presence of fecal indicator bacteria in treated water as a function of filter operation before and after sand replacement. Quantification of As in the filtered water showed that periods of intense daily use followed by periods of non-use and even sand replacement did not significantly (p<0.05) affect As removal efficiency. The As concentration was reduced during filtration from 115.1±3.4μgL-1 in the groundwater to 5.3±0.7μgL-1 in the filtered water (95% removal). The first flush of water from the filter contained As concentrations below the drinking water limit and suggests that this water can be used without risk for human health. Colony forming units (CFUs) of coliform bacteria increased during filtration and storage from 5±4 per 100mL in the groundwater to 5.1±1.5×103 and 15±1.4×103 per 100mL in the filtered water and in the water from the storage tank, respectively. After filter sand replacement, CFUs of Escherichia coli of <100 per 100mL were quantified. None of the samples contained CFUs of Enterococcus spp. No critical enrichment of fecal indicator bacteria belonging to E. coli or Enterococcus spp. was observed in the treated drinking water by qPCR targeting the 23S rRNA gene. The results demonstrate the efficient and reliable performance of household sand filters regarding As removal, but indicate a potential risk for human health arising from the enrichment of coliform bacteria during filtration and from E. coli cells that are introduced by sand replacement.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)526-536
    Number of pages11
    JournalScience of the Total Environment
    StatePublished - Jan 1 2015

    Bibliographical note

    Funding Information:
    This work was funded by a research grant from the German Research Foundation (DFG) to AK ( KA 1736/22-1 ). We acknowledge Hoang Van Dung for providing access to his sand filter for our studies and Hoang Thi Tuoi, Mai Phuong Thao, Nguyen Nhu Khue, and Nguyen Thu Trang for their assistance with sample collection in the field. We thank Caroline Stengel for support with ICP-MS measurements, Ellen Struve for IC and DOC measurements, Mathias Guth for Fe-extractions in 2013, Caroline Schmidt for help with figure design, and Eva Marie Muehe and Emily Denise Melton for manuscript improvements.

    Publisher Copyright:
    © 2014 Elsevier B.V.

    Copyright 2014 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


    • Arsenate
    • Arsenite
    • Fecal indicator bacteria
    • Groundwater
    • Iron minerals
    • Sorption


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