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Low-cost treatment system developed at UBC to clean world's drinking water

Last Updated Apr 5, 2017 at 7:59 am PDT

A look at a water purification system developed by researchers at UBC. (Courtesy UBC)

Local team creates water purification system to help struggling communities

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – We’re lucky to live in a part of the world that has some of the cleanest water on the globe. And a new UBC invention, which uses bacteria to purify water, is being seen as a potential solution for BC communities dealing with pollution problems.

Professor of Civil Engineering Pierre Berube helped developed a plastic barrier or membrane which uses gravity to contain contaminants at the surface. “What we’ve developed is a filtration system that is as effective at removing contaminants as conventional system but does not rely on chemicals and pumps and other complex mechanical equipment to clean the membrane.”

Instead, he explains the membrane is cleaned using micro-organisms which slowly eat away at the bad stuff turning dirty water into drinking water. “Eventually we want to install this in First Nations communities around BC as well as in communities in India.”

Berube adds you just open and close a few valves every 24 hours in order to let gravity and biology do their thing. “Although the membrane component of the system remains arguably at an elevated cost, by removing all the complexity associated with chemical cleaning and the pumps, we’re able to significantly reduce the overall cost of the system.”

The water purification system will be tested next week in West Vancouver.