Lead University: Lehigh University
PI: Arup K. SenGupta, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
Co-PI(s): Todd Watkins, Department of Economics
PA Industry: Purolite; Avo Global

Hybrid Anion Exchange or HAIX technology developed nearly ten years ago is well in use around the world to mitigate arsenic crisis including the USA. Nearly one million people around the world now drink arsenic-safe water through Lehigh University’s HAIX technology. Currently, there are about 400 million people around the world who are exposed to toxic level of fluoride due to natural contamination of groundwater. The contaminated groundwater is very often the only source of drinking water for rural population. In the USA, maximum contaminant level (MCL) of fluoride is expected to be lowered soon in accordance with WHO (World Health Organization) guideline and a market for appropriate technology will immediately emerge as it happened when arsenic MCL was reduced by the USEPA in 2002.

Discovery of naturally occurring Marcellus shale gas and its subsequent extraction offers opportunities for tremendous economic and industrial growth in PA. At the same time, its adverse environmental impact, particularly for our existing water sources, has already raised a major concern and, in many locations, a public outcry. Our water sources are stressed in the two following ways: first, every gas well requires supply of relatively large volume of fresh water for its continued operation of hydraulic fracturing or hydrofracking; second, the flow back or produced wastewater being generated during the gas extraction process contains barium and, occasionally, low concentration of radioactive radium and needs safe disposal. Current practices fail to address these two problems.

Our laboratory-scale research has demonstrated that Lehigh University’s HAIX technology can selectively remove i) Fluoride from contaminated groundwater; and ii) Remove Barium and Radium from Marcellus flowback wastewater. Lehigh’s international patent application with USPTO is currently undergoing evaluation.

Two Pennsylvania companies Purolite Co and Avo Global Inc. enthusiastically support the proposal. Purolite will provide ion exchange resins free of charge for field trial after modification. The proposed project will have 2:2 leverage funding through an existing grant from the US department of state.