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Indian Journal of Community Medicine

Efficacy of Filter Plant in Removal of Arsenic from Water of Yamuna River

Author(s): S. Lalwani, T.D. Dogra, D.N. Bhardwaj, R.K. Sharma, O.P. Murty

Vol. 30, No. 4 (2005-10 - 2005-12)


Arsenic and its compounds are naturally present in aquatic environment in low concentration at places with high geothermal activities. It can be an insidious environmental pollutant in cities where the contamination is due to industrial wastes1.

In last decade, arsenic has emerged as a major pollutant of water and has severly affected seven districts of West Bengal in India and 27 districts of Bangladesh. Arsenic concentration in water of these areas has been found several times higher than that of WHO safety limit and has affected 34 million population in 560 villages of West Bengal and about 30 million population in Bangladesh. 2-3 Several epidemiological studies conducted in different countries have shown definite relationship between exposure of arsenic through drinking water and health hazards. The health hazards following toxic exposure to arsenic includes nasal septum perforation, rhinopharyngolaryngitis, pulmonary insufficiency, hypertension, noncirrhotic portal fibrosis, peripheral vascular disease, blackfoot disease polyneuropathy and malignancy of lungs, skin, stomach, liver, bladder kidney and even leukemia1-7.

Continuous, increasing and persistent use of chemicals by industries alongwith disposal of waste containing several hazardous chemicals without treatment directly into the river Yamuna, which is the major source of water supply in Delhi.

Due to fear of such wide spread environmental contamination continuous surveillance of water reservoirs, rivers streams and water that is used for drinking purposes becomes necessary to assess potential threat ot the population. In present study, we have analyzed arsenic level in water of Yamuna River. Filtered water of various filter plants was also studied to check the efficacy of filter plant in removal of arsenic.

Materials and Methods:

Water samples were collected by using plastic bottles of capacity one liter. All bottles used were washed with 1% nitric acid (BDH). Before collecting the samples, bottles were rinsed three to five times with the water to be filled. Then the bottles were filled with water. Few drops of concentrated nitric acid was added to the water samples for preservation til analysis.

Water of river Yamuna is a major source of raw water for the supply to the public of Delhi (68%). Total thirteen water samples were collected from eight different points of stretch of Yamuna River in Delhi. These includes- Wazirabad, Chandrawal, Gokulpuri, Nangloi, Haiderpur, Halalpur, Bawana and Okhla. There are six treatment plants (Wazirabad, Chandrawal, Gokulpuri, Nangloi, Haiderpur and Okhla) where raw water is treated by the conventional treatment methods of coagulation, sedimentation, filtration and chlorination to make it suitable for drinking purposes. Thirteen samples of filtered water were collected from these plants.

Samples were filtered using 0.45 -mm Whatman filter paper. Initial filterate was used for the rinsing of volumetric flask. All the solutions were prepared with distilled (deionized) water. Arsenic stock solution containing 980 mgm per ml supplied by Sigma Company of USA was used for preparing the standards. Arsenic in water was estimated by method of C.J. Wyatt et al8. Statistical analysis was done using Barlett's Chi Square Test.


The arsenic level measured in water of Yamuna River was found to be in the range of 0.032-0.064 ppm (Mean value- 0.051 SD-0.013 and Std. error of mean-0.00363) The arsenic level at Halalpur where Yamuna water comes through Paschim Nahar was 0.037 ppm and at Wazirabad the entry point at Delhi was 0.032-0.48 ppm. At Okhla the exit Point of Yamuna River in Delhi, maximum arsenic level detected was 0.080ppm. In water samples of Chandrawal and Nangloi arsenic level were 0.056-0.064 ppm and 0.050-0.060 respectively.

The water samples of filtered water collected from different treatment plants were showing arsenic level ranging from 0- 0.009 ppm (Mean value-0.00192, SD-0.0004, Std. error of mean- 0.00001341). Out of two samples taken from treatment plant Wazirabad arsenic level was found 0.000 & 0.009 ppm,from treatment plant Chandrawal 0.000-0.008 ppm, teatment plant Nangloi 0.000-0.009. Two water samples from each treatment plant of Okhla, Gokulpuri and Haiderpur shows arsenic level far less than the detectable range of the instrument.


The arsenic level in water supply of Delhi were determined by using Atomic Absorption Spectrophotometer (AAS) with hydride generator accessory (VGA). These instruments when used in combination meet best the requirement for economic determination of hydride forming element even in small trace amount.

Arsenic level in water of Yamuna River at Delhi is more than the WHO guideline value (1996) for arsenic level in water (0.01 mg/liter). But it is within the range of earlier WHO guideline value (1984) for arsenic in water (0.05mgm/ltr.) Different studies worldwide have shown the arsenic levels in various lakes and rivers in the range of 0.003-0.008mg/litre1,9,11.

The arsenic level in Yamuna river water while leaving Delhi at Okhla barrage was 0.080 ppm. The water supply in Yamuna River for Delhi is dependent on discharge of water from Tajewala Dam, Haryana. The tract of Yamuna River from Tajewala to Wazirabad is through the industrial area and the industries are discharging their wastes in the river. However, most of the industries are sugar mills, which are unlikely to use arsenic containing chemicals. The discharge of such industries is unlikely to contain arsenic. Therefore, the source of arsenic in Yamuna River is more likely to be natural inherent as well as industrial waste while travelling a long distance from its orgin to entrance in Delhi. The level of arsenic found in water of Yamuna at Okhla barrage (0.080) shows about 60% rise in level. This indicates that industrial wastes flowing into Yamuna River contain arsenic.

The industries likely to cause contamination of environment mainly water, by discharging the waste containing arsenic and its compounds could be Copper smelting industries, Paris Green (Copper acetoarsenite) manufacturing industries, art glass production industries, industries having semiconductor fabrication facility, industries involved in manufacturing of wood preservatives, wall papers, artificial flowers, aniline dyes, taxidermy, calico printing by use of arsenic and its compounds4,6,7,10.

Arsenic level detected in filter water was less than the WHO guideline value (1996) 0.01 mgm/ltr. The conventional flocculation treatment using aluminium or ferric salts remove a high proportion of at least Arsenic1,5. In a study of arsenic removal during conventional aluminium-based drinking water treatment it is mentioned that soluble arsenic (V) is converted to particulate arsenic (V) by adsorption during rapid mixing and is removed along with naturally occurring particulate arsenic predominately by clarification. Soluble As (III) tracks through the treatment processes and is converted to soluble As (V) during final chlorination. The ability of a water treatment process to achieve the maximum acceptable concentration for arsenic in drinking water is dependent on arsenic (III) in the source water12.


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Deptt. of Forensic Medicine and Toxicology, Room No. 1054,
Teaching Block AIIMS Ansari Nagar, New Delhi-29
[email protected]

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