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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Use and performance of BioSand filters in Posoltega, Nicaragua Vanderzwaag, Jason Corey

Abstract

An evaluation of BioSand Filters, a method of Household Water Treatment, was conducted in Posoltega, Nicaragua, with objectives of determining the long-term filtration efficiency and the rate of sustained use. Field methods included microbial and turbidity water quality testing and interviews with filter users regarding the operation, maintenance and perceptions towards the filters. Of the 234 BioSand Filters installed in 1999 and 2004, only 24 were found to still be in operation. The average filtration efficiency was found to be 98% for total coliforms, 96% for E. coli and 88% for turbidity. Statistically significant effects on filtration efficiency were detected for the source contamination, the inverse of the flow rate, and the standing depth of water over the sand. A follow-up laboratory QA/QC procedure was undertaken to validate the field methods, which consisted of membrane filtration (MF) with m coliBlue24 growth media, and SolarCult dipslides. It was found that MF with m coliBlue24 produced useful reproducible results, and is an appropriate method for conducting field water quality testing. The dipslides were found to be an appropriate tool for testing source water quality and assessing the applicability of BioSand Filters, and may be an appropriate tool for local health representatives to promote safe water practices within the community. However, the dipslides should not be used as a presence / absence test for drinking water due to the high limit of detection. The low rate of sustained use (10%) is mostly a result of the structural failure of the concrete walls of the filter, in particular for those filters from 2004. Anecdotal evidence suggests insufficient quality control during the construction. The filtered water and the stored post-filtered water did not meet the WHO guidelines for safe drinking water on account of the presence of E. coli. Also identified were improper maintenance practices and unsafe storage of post-filtered water. These problems could have been addressed through the development of a holistic water system approach, such as the World Health Organization Water Safety Plan.

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