Water filtration project provides safe water to Puerto Palomas

water filtration workshop

Border Partners founder, Peter Edmunds (center) helped Juan Carlos Huerta (right) of Puerto Palomas lead a workshop to produce water filters for testing.

Public drinking water in Puerto Palomas contains naturally occurring heavy metals that are detrimental to long term health, particularly for children. Levels of arsenic surpass 20 times safe standards; there’s seven times too much fluoride.

The town provides two public water filters but residents must pay 1 peso per gallon for the safe water. Regularly transporting large jugs of water to one’s home is time-consuming and heavy–as a five gallon jug weighs over forty pounds.  And the amount of water needed in a school for the drinking needs of students, staff and for lunch cooking requirements prohibits use of this safe water.

Erin Ward, the Director of the Southwest Consortium for Environmental Research & Policy and Joshua Gomez, an engineering student from New Mexico State University, contacted us at Border Partners to introduce a public domain design water filter to Palomas. The filter is composed of common plumbing parts and chemicals.

This filter, which can easily be installed in public buildings and in homes, allows access to safe water to all at a low cost.

Making sure it works!!

Border Partners is working with community members to introduce this filter, run tests to make sure that it works well and to find out how long the chemicals will filter to safe  standards. We needed to find a source for the chemicals and to refine the design to keep the cost as low as possible.  In June, 2014, filters were built by high school students and installed in the community demonstration garden, as well as in the three Palomas public schools. In July, water samples were tested and found to meet the standard set.

Peter Edmunds secured interest from the community, arranged for their involvement, transported water for testing and secured donations to fund the project.

News of this advance spread. The Mayor of Ascension, the county seat,  asked for filters to install in 30 schools in the district and partially funded their production.

Currently, the latest model of the filters is installed in the three schools and the garden.  The next step is to have the water tested by a Mexican water testing lab.    After we clear that hurdle, we will be able to install the filters in all 25 of the schools in the district and sell the filters to the public.

Two men from Palomas are developing a business plan to launch a way to sell these water filters in Mexico. If successful, this will contribute to economic development in the town, providing jobs and reliable income.

2 thoughts on “Water filtration project provides safe water to Puerto Palomas”

  1. It all sounds great EXCEPT:

    What are the heavy metals in the drinking water? Certain heavy metals interfere with removal of the arsenic.

    What is the pH of the water? Level of pH can effect proper removal of arsenic.

    What chemicals are being used in these filters and will they leach additional chemicals from the “plumbing pipes” used in building the filters?

    What is the disposal methodology for the expended filters? The level of arsenic in the filter may be high enough so that it would be classified as “hazardous” and require special disposal.

    The article states “20 times safe standards.” How is the author defining “safe” and who set the standards?

    What arsenates or arsenicals are in the water?

    Is the arsenic naturally occurring, or is the source from industrial or agricultural pollution?

    In 2007, USEPA lowered its standards for arsenic in drinking water from 40 ppb to 10 ppb. At least half of the water systems in the Southwest now exceed those standards due to coming from formations with naturally-occurring arsenic. Others exceed standards due to pollution, most likely from agricultural pesticides and other industrial processes. It is not surprising that Palomas’ system is among them. However, the effective removal of arsenic is dependent on factors including the type of arsenic and the water composition.

    I look forward to learning more about these filters, how they work, and what happens to the arsenic once it is removed. Thank you for your dedication to bringing appropriate technology to the people who need it most.

    1. Thanks for such thought-provoking questions! We rely on our NMSU engineers for technical and research information, but perhaps we could also engage you in some way with this project. We’ll be in touch.

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