Arsenic Poisoning in West Bengal : Treatment Plant

Million dollar arsenic removal plants in West Bengal, India: Useful or not?

M. Amir Hossain, Amitava Mukherjee, Mrinal Kumar Sengupta, Sad Ahamed, Bhaskar Das, Bishwajit Nayak, Arup Pal,
Mohammad Mahmudur Rahman  and Dipankar Chakraborti. Water Quality Research Journal of Canada. 41(2), 2006; 216 – 225.


The effectiveness of arsenic removal plants (ARPs) as a remediation approach to provide safe water was evaluated based on our systematic study of 577 ARPs installed in 3 districts out of 1900 total ARPs installed in 5 arsenic affected districts of West Bengal, India. Out of 577, 145(25.1%) were found defunct. Both raw and filtered water from 305 ARPs were analyzed for arsenic. Forty-eight ARPs were installed despite raw arsenic concentration below the Indian standard (50μg/L). Among the 264 ARPs having raw arsenic above 50mg/L, 140(53.1%) and 73(27.7%) failed to remove arsenic below the WHO guideline value (10mg/L) and Indian standard, respectively. The highest arsenic concentration in filtered water was 705mg/L. Analysis of 217 treated water samples for iron showed, 175(80.6%) failed to remove iron below 300mg/L. The treated water became colored on standing for 191(44.2%) ARPs and 25(5.8%) were producing bad-odored water. Overall study showed that 475(82.3%) of the ARPs installed in the arsenic affected areas were not useful. The reasons for ineffectiveness and low performance included improper maintenance, sand gushing problem, lack of user friendliness and absence of community participation. A comparative study of ARPs in two different blocks Domkol in Murshidabad district and Swarupnagar in North 24 Parganas showed that 39(80%) and 38(95%) ARPs, respectively, were not useful. Our micro-level study in a Gram Panchayet Kolsur, Deganga block, North 24 Parganas showed that 14(87.5%) ARPs were not useful. High urinary arsenic there indicated that despite installation of ARPs villagers were consuming contaminated water. A proper watershed management with active participation from the villagers is urgently required.



Ineffectiveness and Poor Reliability of Arsenic Removal Plants in West Bengal, India.

M. Amir Hossain,  Mrinal Kumar Sengupta, Sad Ahamed, Mohammad Mahmudur Rahman, Debapriya Mondal, Dilip Lodh, 
Bhaskar Das, Bishwajit Nayak, Bimal K. Roy, Amitava Mukherjee, and Dipankar Chakraborti. Environmental Science & Technology, 2005, 39,4300-4306. 


In the recent past, arsenic contamination in groundwater has emerged as an epidemic in different Asian countries like Bangladesh, India and China. Arsenic removal plants (ARP) are one possible option to provide arsenic-safe drinking water. This paper evaluates the efficiency of ARP projects in removing arsenic and iron from raw ground water, based on our two-year long study covering 18 ARPs from 11 manufacturers, both from home and abroad, installed in an arsenic affected area of West Bengal-India, known as the Technology Park Project (TP project).
Immediately after installation of ARPs on August 29, 2001, the villagers began using filtered water for drinking and cooking even though our first analysis on September 13, 2001 found that ten of 13 ARPs failed to remove arsenic below the WHO provisional guideline value (10 microgram per liter), while six plants could not achieve the Indian standard value (50 microgram per liter). The highest concentration of arsenic in filtered water was observed to be 364 microgram per liter.  Our two years study showed that none of the ARPs could maintain arsenic in filtered water below the WHO provisional guideline value and only two could meet Indian standard value (50 micro gram per liter) throughout. Standard statistical techniques showed that ARPs from the same manufacturers were not equally efficient. Efficiency of the ARPs was evaluated based on point and interval estimates of the proportion of failure. During the study period almost all the ARPs have undergone minor or major modifications to improve the performance and after our study, 15 (78%) out of 18 ARPs were no longer in use. In this study, we also analyzed urine samples from villagers in the TP project area and found 82% of the samples contained arsenic above the normal limit.