NMSU chemical engineering freshmen designs water filter

July 22, 2014

New Mexico State University chemical engineering sophomore Joshua Gomez designed and developed water filters that will be installed in houses and schools in Puerto Palomas, Chihuahua, Mexico.

Puerto Palomas is located just south of Columbus, New Mexico. Water supplies in both Palomas and Columbus are drawn from the same arsenic- and fluoride-contaminated aquifer. While Columbus has installed a reverse osmosis system to provide all residents clean water, Palomas’ water supply is only disinfected with chlorine.

The level of arsenic and fluoride contaminating the water supply is toxic to the people who drink the water over a long period of time. While there are water purifiers available to city residents, they only purify the water by the gallon.

With the direction of Shuguang Deng, NMSU chemical engineering professor, Gomez developed a combination of activated alumina and activated carbon to create a filter that reduces the amount of arsenic and fluoride levels in the water. Gomez said that the activated alumina and carbon also serve to improve the water’s taste.

“These filters are implemented under the sink in households and schools,” Gomez said. “People who ask for it – and those are the people who really need it – are given the filters.”

Gomez said he has traveled to Mexico multiple times during the spring semester. He taught members of Border Partners, a nonprofit in the area, how to build and install the filters, which they are doing now in Palomas.

Gomez hopes that 30 to 100 more filters can be installed in Palomas. Several workshops have been held in Palomas to educate residents and officials about water quality, health risks and how the filters will improve the water.

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