August 14, 2006

Sandia to demonstrate arsenic, radium removal techniques at Navajo Reservation

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Sandia National Laboratories will demonstrate two methods of removing arsenic and radium from drinking water at the Pine Hill School Public Water System on the Navajo Nation (Ramah Navajo Reservation) over the next several months.

The project, which began today, is the fifth arsenic removal demonstration site that Sandia has established as part of a consortium made up of Sandia, the AWWA Research Foundation (AwwaRF), and WERC, a consortium for Environmental Education and Technology Development.

U.S. Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., secured funding for the arsenic removal test project through the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) as chairman of the Senate Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee.

Sandia is a National Nuclear Security Administration laboratory.

Sandia researcher Malcolm Siegel says each of the demonstration sites tests different arsenic removal technologies. This is the first time a radium removal technology will be tested. Other members of the project team include Ward Hunter, facility management director at Pine Hill School and Sandians Kathleen Holt, Malynda Aragon, Randy Everett, William Holub, and Zachary Satterfield.

S. Deb Misra, director of the Navajo Nation Environmental Protection Agency’s Reservation Surface and Ground Water Protection Department, says that his department worked closely with Sandia to select the right site on the reservation for the experiment.

“This working arrangement is an excellent example of government to government collaboration,” Misra says. “If the experiments go well and Sandia finds a good and cost effective way of removing arsenic and radium from drinking water, they could benefit the entire country.”

The technologies being tested at Pine Hill include an adsorptive media where water is passed through columns for treatment and oxidation coagulation filtration where a chemical is added to a container. The arsenic and radium adsorbs onto a flock or the surface of the filter. The filter media is cleaned by flushing water in the opposite direction and the residue goes into a sanitary sewer.

Other arsenic removal demonstration plants are located at Jemez Pueblo, Socorro, Anthony (Desert Sands), and Rio Rancho. Another is planned for a site in Oklahoma.

Following tests at the Oklahoma demonstration site, Sandia — together with its consortium partners — will publish a report discussing the effectiveness the different arsenic removal processes, along with costs associated with each one. Water utilities needing to remove arsenic from water systems in order to meet the new Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) mandate can refer to the report to determine which system is best for them.

New EPA regulations went into effect in January calling for the reduction of the Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) from 50 micrograms per liter to 10 micrograms per liter. The intent of the regulation is to reduce the incidence of bladder and lung cancers caused by exposure to arsenic.

Top of Page

Sandia is a multiprogram laboratory operated by Sandia Corporation, a Lockheed Martin company, for the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration. Sandia has major R&D responsibilities in national security, energy and environmental technologies, and economic competitiveness.

Sandia news media contact: Chris Burroughs,, (505) 844-0948